November 07, 2006

The World’s Fastest Indian

By Hilary Rowe *

By Hilary Rowe *

A surprise hit of 2005, The World’s Fastest Indian is an outstanding celebration of humor, simplicity, perseverance, and kindness.  This charming film is based on the true story of Burt Munro, a motorcycle enthusiast from New Zealand with aspirations to make history.

Impeccably acted by Sir Anthony Hopkins, Munro embarks on a journey to America to race his rebuilt 1920 Indian, an American-manufactured motorcycle, in a land speed competition.  His humble beginning is reminiscent of many a Biblical character.  To make it to the States to put his unlikely vehicle to the test, Munro must rely on Providence working through the charity of strangers who are charmed by his simple kindness.  

In one scene, the innocent and quirky Munro enters a used car lot in California to purchase a clunker he can use to transport his Indian to the Salt Flats for the big race.  Before the end, he has talked the salesman down in price, secured the use of his workshop, and picked up a little extra cash fixing cars around the lot.  All this by virtue of his cheery disposition.

The World’s Fastest Indian is more than just a good story; it is a beautiful piece of filmmaking.  Director Roger Donaldson combines lingering shots of the striking Utah landscape with fast-paced digital video in the racing scenes.  This style imitates Munro himself, a peaceful soul who thrives on speed.

Unfortunately, Munro engages in two sexual affairs in the film, which alone prevent my recommending him as someone to imitate entirely.  Aside from this, he possesses virtues often undervalued in society, such as fortitude, humility, and charity.  More revealing than his display of character is the reaction of the world around him.  It is for these virtues that people respect and befriend him, not for his worldly success.  That is a reminder much needed in film and in our culture.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.


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