It has been 9 years since I gave a film a five star review – but the documentary ‘Senna’ now deserves a place as one of the best films of all time.

Directed by Asif Kapadia, it tells the journey of racing immortal Ayrton Senna from his youthful days go-karting, to his successful and ultimately tragic Formula One career.
Kapadia, along with his editors Chris King and Gregers Sall, skilfully arrange the Senna life story in chronological fashion,  recreating along the way the very personal and bitter relationship he had with fellow teammate Alain Prost.

There are two components that makes ‘Senna’ such an engaging documentary.  The subject himself is alluring, beautiful and mesmerising, a man whose deep passion for racing and for justice is carried within him throughout every scene.
And couple that with access to the most amazing footage imaginable.  In the mid 1980’s and into the 1990’s, cameras were allowed to freely roam into the pits , eavesdrop on all conversations, and even sit with the drivers in their pre match briefing.   And it is from these moments that the story is formed of a proud and passionate man, who wants to do his best for his country of Brazil.

As the film carries on, you can see a transformation in Senna himself, – the youthful, innocent boy is overtaken by a man who starts to realise that Formula One is more about politics than passion, then in the latter part of the film, he becomes a semi-activist for everything that should be right in the sport.

It is almost impossible to explain the range of emotions ones feels when watching this documentary.  Near the start, I had to physically restrain myself from yelling out at the screen at the injustices Ayrton Senna was experiencing as he made his way into Formula One.   And then near the films tragic finale, the documentary so skilfully builds up to the expected shattering conclusion that the dread and fear I was feeling was almost too much.

The entire documentary is told through the voices of those who were there.  Interviews with Senna are interspersed with candid comments from Alain Prost, members of the Senna family, and Senna’s mechanical team.   The look of the film, from the flashy campy graphics, to the slightly out of focus standard definition broadcasts of races in the 1980’s , takes us back to an era of Formula One racing that no longer seems accessible.

Senna is not only one of the best films of this year, or of the last 10 years. It is one of the best films of all time.

Director:  Asif Kapadia
Running Time: 106 minutes
Country: UK


Score: 5 stars.