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The World's Fastest Indian

Offerings to the God of Speed

It's one thing to be a motorcycle enthusiast, but New Zealander Burt Munro was something more than a mere enthusiast. Munro was a zealot. The majority of Munro's waking hours were spent streamlining, honing, and customizing his beloved Indian Scout motorcycle with the hope of one day setting a land speed record. Thus, begins the tale of The World's Fastest Indian.

While Anthony Hopkins unquestionably has a diverse body of work, it's challenging to see him as the affable Burt Munro when his most memorable role is that of a cannibal. At any moment, one suspects Hopkins will turn into Hannibal Lecter, pull out a fork, and carve someone up for a snack. Fortunately for The World's Fastest Indian, no consumption of human flesh occurs.

However, Hopkins effortlessly conveys the authenticity, charm, and sincerity of Burt Munro. It becomes impossible not to root for Munro as we see him rise from his bed in the garage, put some water on the boil (not for coffee, but for tinkering with his motorcycle), and work on his bike. Hopkin's performance as Munro is as endearing as his portrayal of Hannibal was terrifying.

The title of the film itself more than suggests the outcome, so the story is really about exactly how Munroe will get to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and whether or not his cobbled together motorcycle can hold up for the journey, let alone the race itself. While director Roger Donaldson sets up a fair number of challenges and obstacles for Munroe to overcome, none of them seem that staggering.

Munro is challenged to come up with the money to travel to the U.S.; his girlfriend helps him come up with the cash. Munro didn't get approval for his bike; Bonneville officials cut him some slack. In many cases, it seems Munro's obstacles disappear without him doing too much about it.

Burt's a great guy, so you tolerate it to a certain extent, but it seems too convenient at times. Donaldson may have been trying to keep the film as close to the truth as possible in telling the story this way, but it leaves one feeling a bit less inspired by the end of the film.

While not without its fair share of shortcomings, The World's Fastest Indian still manages to engage and inspire with a wonderful message about holding on tight to dreams against all odds.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars