DVD Review HTF Review: The World's Fastest Indian

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Sam Posten, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator

    Oct 30, 1997
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    Aberdeen, MD & Navesink, NJ
    Real Name:
    Sam Posten

    The World’s Fastest Indian

    Title: The World’s Fastest Indian
    Rated: PG-13
    Screen format: 1.78 Widescreen (OAR is closer to 2.35)
    Studio: Magnolia Pictures
    Year first released: 2005
    DVD released: June 2006
    Director: Roger Donaldson
    Starring: Anthony Hopkins
    Sound Formats: English 5.1 Dolby Digital
    Length: 127 Minutes
    Subtitles: Spanish

    Plot: 3/5
    Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as Invercargill New Zealand native Burt Monroe, an aging motorcyclist with dreams of traveling to the Bonneville Salt Flats in America and beating the land speed record for his bike’s class. This film is actually a labor of love for director Donaldson, who created a biography of Monroe early in his career. That bio, the 1971 “Offerings to the God of Speed” is included among the extras on this disk, which is a nice touch and acts as fitting parallel to the dramatized version of Monroe’s life. Like the other Magnolia/HDnet/2929 films I’ve had the fortune to view lately, this is a slick character study that combines humor, heart and surprisingly good audio and video quality for a non mainstream release. Hopkin's affected New Zealand accent is pretty dead on, and comparing it with the Offerings footage it’s clear that he isn’t a perfect match for Monroe visually, but he nails his mannerisms and conveys his unique worldview perfectly. Indian recounts Monroe’s first trip to the Bonneville flats (he made 8 further trips according to Offerings), encountering the differences between American and New Zealand societies, Californian culture and countercultures, heart troubles, breakdowns, romantic romps, and in the end, gets his shot at glory. His struggles and unique solutions in overcoming them are legendary to Indian enthusiasts, and while this film is just a hair too long and could have benefited from some additional paring down, it’s a fitting tribute to Monroe and an enjoyable recounting.

    Sound Quality: 4/5
    Again, for a non mainstream release Indian has great sound. The 5.1 sound kicks in nicely during the racing sequences, and the music is low key but well balanced and catchy. Not demo material by any means, but better than you would expect given its pedigree.

    Visual Quality: 3.5/5
    Visually this film tries to match the period of its story just a little bit too closely. While the racing sequences feature some amazingly sharp and surprisingly FAST action, the saturation throughout is just a little underwhelming. Sharpness is fair all around, but again it is only the salt flats where you really take notice. Edge enhancement was never distracting or noticeable to me. Special note that director Donaldson specifically chose to clip the framing down from the theatrical 2.35 ratio down to match the typical widescreen viewer at about 1.78:1. While this was never noticeable as a first time viewer, and there were no scenes where important components were obviously clipped off, it is somewhat disappointing and some viewers will refuse to watch it on those grounds alone. That would be a shame, as considerable care obviously was taken during filming to make this strategy work. Also note, for you Canadians, the Canadian version appears to have the correct 2.35 ratio but is NON-Anamorphic. VERY STRANGE!

    Extra Features: 3.5/5
    The gem of the available features is of course the bio-documentary Offerings, and quite frankly it is both a terrific counterpoint to the movie and also somewhat redundant. Additionally, a fair ‘Making of’ documentary is provided, which sadly duplicates some of the material from Offerings, but really does add to the background viewers will want regarding Donaldson’s passion in making this movie. A half dozen wisely deleted scenes are included, and they show that the editor made some good choices but my opinion again is he could have gone a little deeper with the cuts. A feature commentary track is included which I did not listen to yet. Finally, the strangest, most ill fitting extra I have ever seen is found in the form of an advertising video for New Zealand, which while having great high definition video start, is wildly over saturated and has absolutely nothing to do with the film except Monroe’s home, and doesn’t fit in with the pace or sentimentality of this movie at all.

    Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
    It’s another solid outing for Magnolia, and I repeat my conviction that these guys are a group to watch. They have been putting out consistently high quality, family friendly, humorous, heartfelt films. Monroe is an everyman that a lot of folks will identify with, regardless of how they feel about motorcycles. Hopkins carried this film by sinking deep into the role and allowing the world to see through Monroe’s dreaming eyes, as captured by Donaldson’s passion for the man.

  2. Matt Leigh

    Matt Leigh Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 8, 2004
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    I just watched this last night. Aside from the very irritation non anamorphic presentation I found it to be a lovely film. It is old fashioned in its charm sort of like a Full Monty or Billy Elliot. It does have the best Anthony Hopkins performance in ages and the character's charm and wit is contagious.

    8/10 from me.
  3. Ken N.

    Ken N. Stunt Coordinator

    May 23, 2001
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    In the Singularity of a Black Hole
    Real Name:
    So it is indeed cropped instead of open matte? ala Donaldson's previous film The Recruit which I believe was 2.40 in theaters then released per his request at 1.78 on the DVD.
  4. Vincent-P

    Vincent-P Second Unit

    Jan 19, 2004
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    It's a mix of some cropping and mostly open matte, as most altered ratio Super 35 films tend to be.
  5. PatrickDA

    PatrickDA Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 27, 2005
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    I've got this film in my Top Ten for 2005 and found it to be Roger Donaldson's
    second best film to date. Hopkins won by Best Actor award for his role in this
    film and {Proof}, but mostly for 'Fastest Indian...' Hopkins hasn't had a real
    strong part like this since 'Titus' in 1999 and he made the MOST of it. I was
    on the verge of tears in the theater with pride in my former favorite actor
    pulling one last great preformance out of his ass. Donaldon's eye for composing
    shots has never been better, in my opinion. The whole opening sequence of
    shots was trurly spectacular.
  6. craiged

    craiged Auditioning

    Jul 31, 2006
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    I watched a Canadian version of the DVD last night. I liked the movie a lot, but I was very upset about the non-anamorphic thing, particularly since on the packaging it clearly states "Enhanced for 16x9 Screens". It's bad enough that a recent movie is released non-anamorphic, but to label it incorrectly is inexcusable.
  7. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

    Jan 3, 2002
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    Liked this movie a lot, and might end up buying it before long. More of a slice of life than a movie about trying to break a record, although that section was quite exciting as well.

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