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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

1 (aka 1: Life on the Limit) review (London Film Festival)

1 yellow light

Action packed, with tons of amazing archival footage, but if you don’t already have an interest in Formula 1, it’s unlikely you’ll find one here.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of Formula 1

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If Rush piqued your interest about Formula 1, here’s the perfect companion piece: an action-packed documentary about the history of the sport, particularly its history as a killer, from its very beginnings through the 1990s, when safer cars and better safety consciousness vastly increased the likelihood of the drivers heading home at the end of a race. (There hasn’t been a fatality on a Formula 1 track since the 1994 crash that killed Italian Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna.) It’s a shame, then, that this film doesn’t share the same universality that Rush did — if you don’t already have an interest in the sport, it’s unlikely you’ll find one here. There’s tons of amazing archival footage — including lots of the real Niki Lauda and James Hunt, the rival 1970s drivers featured in Rush — but we never get a genuine sense of the drivers and other players (team owners, promoters, and so on) as characters in a grand human story. Great sports movies are always about more than the sport, but this one is pretty much just about the sport. And the oddly stilted narration by Michael Fassbender doesn’t help neophytes find a path inside.

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival


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1 (2013)
US/Can release: (VOD Oct 1 2013)
UK/Ire release: Jan 10 2014

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 12A (contains infrequent strong language and moderate injury detail)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    I’ll probably go to see this. Might take the pixie. I’ve tried to give him an info dump about the sport when explaining some things he saw in the Rush trailer (he hasn’t see the movie yet) but, this might make it a whole lot easier. I got distracted with my particular niches of interest (like Ferrari developments).

  • It’s VOD only in the US. So you have to stay in to see it. :->

  • Rick Baumhauer

    (Pssst – Ayrton Senna was Brazilian, but died at a track in Italy)

  • PJK

    Also see Senna, the terrific documentary on one of the greatest drivers in F1 and its final fatality. Told entirely with actual footage shot during the life of Ayrton Senna (both home movies, interviews and archival racing footage). It really gives you a good insight into the mind of the Formula 1 driver.

    And yes, Ayrton was Brazilian, so you better correct that little mistake in your review MaryAnn.

  • Corrected. Thanks.

  • I saw the first correction notice, thank you!

  • althea

    I would probably have never heard of this if not for you, MaryAnn, thanks. Rush has caught my interest but I don’t expect much of it. The best F1 film ever made – Grand Prix – is still relevant and it would be sad there wasn’t ever anything good enough to compare with it.

    And thanks, PJK, for the other ref. Looks like I’ll have to hit video sources to find both of them because the library hasn’t got them. But I did run into a fascinating children’s book title in the online catalog: Senor Baby Elephant the Pirate. 1962, out of print, but now I’ve gotta follow it up.

  • althea

    Hey, I’m wrong! Searched a different way, the library does have Senna. Cool. However, rats! – searching around, it looks like the only source for 1 is VOD. Oh well, might rent the download anyway.

  • It’ll be on DVD eventually.

  • RogerBW

    Just to confuse viewers when “+1” is also out, and “+” is a character that can give some trouble in URLs… :-)

  • Jason Powers

    Actually this is a very insightful film. It delves into what craziness existed – how many great drivers died in those early days – and what it took to stop it: a movement from within by drivers and ex-drivers.

    I was never a speed expert or desirous of being behind the wheel going fast. However, you can see the attraction to danger, and with it, that underlying respect gained of doing such a crazy thing as hurling yourself 200MPH+ down a track, often without any safety concerns/restraints at all. (The one guy without a seat belt, Jackie Ickx.)

    I found it quite rewarding to hear Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Andretti, Jody Scheckter et. al., talk about all problems with safety, their lives on the line, and how they dealt with it. You get a sense of appreciation of life – if you are looking at this properly – and how it grows as survivors of the most daring spectacles seen on TV. 24-33 drivers willingly risking it all. They know they were crazy. They know it now…

    The reason it is about the sport – it is to tell you the truth of what happen. It’s biggest short comings: more about the business side; the design of/souping up of the cars – Macleran, Lotus, Ferraris, and all the rest; and the integration of teams and sponsors. It could be 4 hours long, and the biography would resonate.

    It is much better than one expected. And this comes not from a racing expert, but a older (41) guy that discovered what the hard on was for this sport. Try a lap – it is a bit more involved that all of the other rubbish on the tele.

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