..The World Coolest Old Guy

It's official. Anthony Hopkins is the coolest old actor EVER. Not that I have anything against old actors, but actors around Sir Hopkins age (60-70 years old) tend to get satirized by Hollywood (e.g. Space Cowboys, Out to Sea, Grumpy Old Men, etc..). But in The World Fastest Indian, Anthony Hopkins is the God of Speed that rides the coolest looking bike ever, gets all the grandmas and achieve his lifelong dream. And the best part is.. it's a true story. Super-cool.

Let's get one thing straight; Anthony Hopkins doesn't play an Indian (..although he did play an African-American in The Human Stain). The Indian in question is actually a '20s era Indian Scout motorcycle. The World's Fastest Indian is based on the true story of Burt Munro from Invercargill, New Zealand, who personally modified his old 1920s Indian motorcycle into a 200+ mph record-breaking machine. He broke the world land speed record for motorcycles with engines less than 1000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the 1960s. The record still stands to this day. The film is written and directed by Roger Donaldson who had previously made a documentary involving Munro, Offerings to the God of Speed, in 1971. This movie is certainly is his labour of love and it took him almost 30 years to complete.

What I really love about this movie is that in the space of a little more than two hours, the story crosses no fewer than four genres of film. It starts out as 1) a mismatched buddy film, with Burt the curmudgeon hanging out with a boy named Tom. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood, including Tom's parents, thinks Burt is disreputable and a bad influence, but that doesn't prevent Tom from spending countless hours in the old man's workshop. It has been Burt's lifelong dream to take his beloved motorcycle to the Utah salt flats to find out how fast he can go, and that dream comes a step closer to reality when Burt is able to raise the money. So it's off to Los Angeles, where the movie becomes 2) a fish-out-of-water movie. After dawdling a while in Hollywood, Burt buys a car and heads northeast for Utah. Cue genre no. 3) the road movie. Finally, Donaldson's mixed genre odyssey ends with 4) an inspirational sports segment, in which Burt reaches his goal and must battle rules and regulations to get a chance to realize his dream.

Out of the four genres, the road movie segment is definitely a pleasure to watch. Along the way Burt has encounters with a few odd people: an affable transvestite who covers the nightshift at Burt's sleazy Hollywood motel; the helpful used-car salesman; the young soldier on leave from Nam; an American Indian, who shelters him for a night and gave him grounded dog balls (yes!?); and a widow with a workshop, who lets Burt repair a broken towing rig in exchange for a much-needed one-night stand. Then at Bonneville, the good old boys of speed, headed by a fellow biker find ways to make officials bend, if not break, safety rules to let the old man race in a bike with no chute or brakes.

The film could not have been so great, if it wasn't for Anthony Hopkins remarkable performance. Hopkins throws himself into the role, doing what all great character actors do: losing himself in the part. From the first frame, we think of Hopkins as Burt, not an actor playing a role. Hopkins is hard to dislike in any role (good or bad), and he's having such a ball in this one. I read somewhere that Hopkins potrayal of Munro is so accurate that Munro's surviving family cried upon seeing Hopkins on the set. I guarantee you will have a wonderful time watching Hopkins work, especially when he mumbles his way through everything (..try to count how many times he says the word 'What?'). Definitely one of his best performance.

If you take a step back and look at The World's Fastest Indian, it's about a man's spiritual journey. Burt's life philosophy is easily explained: "You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime." Burt's unassuming personality wins people over with ease - both on-screen characters and us, the viewers. The smile on my face at the end of the movie says it all. The World's Fastest Indian does what it sets out to do: educates about a mostly unknown historical figure (without doctoring the facts too much), entertains, and uplifts. Inspiring and poignant. One of the best film I've seen this year.


  1. Zack said...

    Thanks for the review, Edd. Aku dah beli DVD ni, tp lum sempat tonton lagi.

  2. Nazim Masnawi said...

    Aku rasa Christopher Walken is cooler but Anthony Hopkins definitely the most versatile. Pelakon tua selalunya ada masalah kepelbagaian (i.e. Jack Nicholson), tapi ole Tony tarak hal buat gua takleh tido malam with Silence dan buat gua nangis like a baby kat ending The Remains of the Day.

  3. Iron Board said...

    Tajuk filem ni pelik sikit la. Tp mmg aku dgr mostly good review abt this film. Ada nampak kat kedai2 DVD, sure akan beli hujung bulan ni...!

  4. Nadia said...

    hmm..dah jumpe, tapi tak beli. takpe..i'll check this one out soon...apa pun, aku suka anthony hopkins..makin tua, makin hensem..heheh..

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