Culture > Movies

Fastest Indian

Movies | For a movie about speed, some might complain that it is too slow

Issue: "Muddy Gras," March 4, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian (rated PG-13) is the true story of Bert Munro, an elderly New Zealander with a 47-year-old motorcycle who made his way to America in 1967 to set a land speed record for his size of vehicle.

The bike is a 1920 Indian Scout, a brand that gives the movie its name. Bert has been souping up the motorcycle for years in his workshop with the help of a neighbor boy. When the 68-year-old tinkerer has a heart attack, he decides to use the time he has left to go for his dream: Race his bike at the Bonneville raceway in Utah.

The bike is old, broken-down, and out-of-date-like its owner, memorably played by Anthony Hopkins. He doesn't smoke or drink, and he lectures those who do, but he occasionally beds elderly ladies in nonexplicit scenes that, along with some urinary business, give the film its PG-13 rating.

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After the townspeople help Bert raise money for his trip, he sets out on his quest. And the movie is structured as an epic quest: As in the Odyssey, most of the story involves the hero's journey and the colorful people he meets. Bert works as a cook on a merchant ship until he reaches California, then has the challenge of surviving these strange American ways (driving on the wrong side of the road, high prices, the bureaucracy that governs racing at Bonneville). Fortunately, most of the colorful people he meets are as good-hearted as he is, and they help him on his way.

Thus, Indian does not have a lot of conflict or intense drama. For a movie about speed, some might complain that it is too slow. But the story is a pleasant ride in good company, like driving with your grandfather. And then your grandfather passes 200 mph.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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