THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN: Written and directed by Roger Donaldson. Produced by Donaldson, Gary Hannam. Executive producers Masaharu Inaba, Charles Hannah, Megumi Fukasawa, Satoru Iseki, Barrie M. Osborne. Cinematograher David Gribble. Editor John Gilbert. Music, J. Peter Robinson. Production design. Rob Gillies (NZ), J. Dennis Washington (US). Stars Anthony Hopkins, with Diane Ladd, Annie Whittel, Paul Rodriguez, Patrick Flueger, Chris Lawson, Saginaw Grant and Chris Williams. Magnolia Pictures, 2005. PG-13. 126 minutes.
Roger Donaldson gives us a nuanced portrait of Burt Munro, a Kiwi obsessed with taking his 1920 Indian Twin Scout motorcycle to the world’s greatest straightaway, Bonneville Salt Flats U.S. After 20 years of perfecting his machine, Munro wanted to see what happened if he drove it as fast as it could go. In his early 70s at the time, Munro set the land speed record (201 mph) in 1969 at Bonneville.
Donaldson (Thirteen Days) met Munro in 1971 at his home in Invercargill, New Zealand and made a documentary about him for N.Z. television, Offerings to the God of Speed, in 1972. But after Munro’s death in 1978, Donaldson was determined to make a feature film about this unique personality who’d made such an impression on him as a young filmmaker.
More than motorcycles contributed to Munro’s fully lived life. He finds a loving relationship with Fran (Annie Whittle) in New Zealand and shares the bed of lovely desert widow Ada (Diane Ladd) in the U.S. A Native American man (Saginaw Grant) helps him after an accident and shares with him a potion for prostate suffering. Munro befriends an L.A. drag queen (Chris Williams), a used car salesman (Paul Rodriguez), a Vietnam soldier on leave (Patrick Flueger), and a fellow motorcyclist at Bonneville, Jim Moffet (Chris Lawford), whose way with the officials gets Munro into the timed trials.
With excellent supporting performances, Hopkins makes it his movie with an understated, mellow performance showing Munro’s savvy, skilled ambition and his rich, personal style. Here was a man. World’s Fastest Indian opens Friday at the Bijou. Don’t miss this one. — Lois Wadsworth