The film opens with one of the most exhilarating moments in MotoGP history; the incredible battle between teammates Rossi and Lorenzo in the final lap of the 2009 Catalunya race, and works its way back to the start of Rossi’s career, charting his unstoppable rise as he dominates the podium for the best part of a decade. The various twists and turns of his career make for an enthralling ride, encompassing all of the highs and lows of the sport as the racers literally risk their lives chasing championship glory. Thrown into the mix are virtually all of the other major players; Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Ben Spies, Nicky Hayden, Marco Simoncelli and current world champ Casey Stoner.
Although Rossi is undeniably one of MotoGP’s greatest legends, with just one championship title shy of Giacomo Agostini’s record eight, he is arguably now past his prime, succumbing to the younger, faster racers. Needless to say, Rossi is no longer the fastest, which almost makes the film feel prematurely dated. This doesn’t affect the impact of the story, though, as Rossi’s career is as action packed and as dramatic as you could hope for. And Neale certainly does his subject justice, methodically chronicling his colossal rise and many falls along the way, including a leg shattering crash at his home circuit last year which was followed by a near superhuman comeback. Rossi’s passion for the sport and his relentless drive to win, along with his extremely likeable and charismatic demeanour, make him a protagonist to really root for.
Although Fastest sometimes falters in becoming a slightly gushy shrine for Rossi, it is at its best when delving into the forensics of the great scientific operation that is a MotoGP season. It can be all too easy to forget about the team behind each rider who prepare, analyse, experiment and perfect the machines upon which racers place their lives. The sport is in a state of constant evolution and ingenious technical advances, and although mechanical failures are a common and highly dangerous blight, the team behind the scenes are undoubtedly the silent stars of the show.
Fastest comes to an end as Stoner wins the 2011 world championship title, but not before foreshadowing the fate of his career (who recently announced his early retirement after the current season) as he is pinned as a ‘quitter’ after giving in to illness in the middle of the 2009 season. More chillingly, though, is the moment where Marco Simoncelli foreshadows his own death as he recalls his 2009 crash in Malaysia - the very same track on which he will suffer a horrific and fatal crash just two years later. Despite the layers of protective gear and the many security improvements to both bike and track, such tragedies are a sobering reminder of the realities of the MotoGP.
The fact that tragedies can still occur, however, is something that all riders need to accept and overcome before even considering getting out on to the track. Rossi acknowledges this as he says that crashing only makes him want to go faster. And indeed, in order to remain the fastest, you need to constantly challenge and reassess your limits. That is what makes the sport so exciting and so exhilarating. Mark Neale certainly manages to capture the essence of MotoGP with his astonishing camerawork, intercutting interviews and archive footage with thrilling edge-of-your-seat race sequences. And for the blu-ray enthusiasts, Fastest doesn’t disappoint as the sharp picture and vivid colours, coupled with the fantastic surround sound of cheering crowds and roaring engines create a captivating cinematic watch.
Fastest is an awesome and heart-racing exploration of those who believe that life has meaning only when it stares death in the face. And for MotoGP riders, staring death in the face is the only way to live - to really live.