Review: Senna

Regardless of what they follow, there is one thing all sports fans will agree on – it was better in the old days. And when it comes to Formula 1, where a desire to maximise performance and revenue has virtually made excitement redundant, this is probably true.

So this documentary about the three times world champion and the last man to die racing F1 has more than a touch of the Mohammed Ali film When We Were Kings to it, a lament for a passing age of greatness.

Aryton Senna the man was fiercely contradictory. A racing driver with a big ego is hardly news but the Brazilian complicated that with a blazing humility. Even his Christianity comes across as being somehow competitive.

He was very much the stereotype F1 playboy, but compared to the smooth Austin Powers style of, say, Jenson Button, there was a geeky element to Senna; he looked like a third movie star Milliband brother.

Senna the film is resolutely straightforward, made up entirely of archive footage.

The onboard film of Senna undertaking outrageous overtaking manoeuvres in the rain at Monaco will make fans gasp. But equally remarkable are the scenes in pre-race drivers' meetings.

Apart from three unseen talking heads – one Brazilian, one American, one British – who are used to provide per-spective and help shape the narrative, the story is told as it happens by the people directly involved.

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The film is shaped as a conflict between the passionate, wholly committed Senna and his pragmatic, coolly calcu-lating French rival Alain Prost. He is the pure man who believes in competition for competitions sake, Prost is the slightly weaselly operator, well versed in the politics needed to survive in Formula 1.

And during the film I found myself sympathising with Prost; it must have been terribly egregious for this meticu-lous man to see all he worked for being jeopardised by this lunatic God-spouting fanatic who seemed to have lim-ited regard for his own or anyone else's safety.

Senna (12A)

Director: Asif Kapadia

Featuring: Aryton Senna, Alain Prost, Ron Dennis.

Length: 105 mins