In a Hollywood tale mostly of perseverance, The World’s Fastest Indian gives some thrills to vintage motorcycle enthusiasts who get to see a man continually tweak and wrench on his 1920 Indian Scout.
Anthony Hopkins stars as Burt Munro, who in the late 1960s, sets off from New Zealand to pursue his decades-old dream of setting records on the Bonneville Salt Flats during speed week. Obstacles abound for Munro, from money to shipping mishaps, and rattlesnakes to inflexible Bonneville rules, none of which diminish his kiwi spirit. Beyond the pursuit of speed, the secondary story is really a series of vigenttes about the unique people Munro meets and charms in his journey from New Zealand to Utah.
The vintage bike enthusiast who hopes to see lots of other bikes throughout the two-hour film will be disappointed, as the only other bikes are a dozen or so late-50s to early-60s British twins (Triumphs, BSAs) with a minor role early on. The real motorcycle fun is in watching Munro wrench, and cast new pistons himself, and see the shelf (labeled “Offerings to the God of Speed”) of blown-up parts in his shed/home.
Despite the title, the movie actually is a fun ride for old car buffs to do some car spotting once Munro reaches America. Mid-1960s Los Angeles street scenes, and extended time on a used car lot, will provide more-than-suitable entertainment for auto enthusiasts, including a 1957 Chevy taxi, Munro’s beater 1954 Chevy Bel Air (with modified trailer for the Indian), and several Impalas, various wagons and sedans, and a pristine two-tone VW Beetle with cloth sunroof. Also of note are many of the speed vehicles and hot rods spotted during the Bonneville scenes.
Old car enthusiasts might especially enjoy a Burma-Shave scene, in which Munro and a hitchhiking Air Force airman, share some road time and read several Burma-Shave signs along the way.
The pace of the movie is slow (at least by U.S. movie standards), yet it is a good fit to the quirky character of Munro and fits the story. This may be a big part of why the movie will be in limited release in America by Magnolia Pictures, mainly to the “arthouse” cinemas.
In the end, this movie is a character study of a man who deserves the study and should serve as an inspiration in the “never say die” genre. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen if you get the chance.
U.S. release date is Feb. 3.