1: Life On The Limit continues cinema’s current love affair with all things Formula One. What started with Senna was followed-up with last year’s blistering Rush to put F1 firmly back on the cinematic spectrum where it had previously been in the shadow of sports such as baseball and boxing.
Here director Paul Crowder delves into the F1 archives to crunching effect by exploring the sport through the sheer ferocity and lack of safety that came to define motor racing over the years. Opening with Martin Brundle’s crash in the 1996 Melbourne Grand Prix, which only a few years before would have almost certainly resulted in the driver’s death, Life On The Limit charts Formula One’s evolution of speed while almost belligerently ignoring the safety of the drivers behind the wheel.
Illustrating, in a fun comic strip style of editing, how F1 drivers were first inspired by World War II fighter pilots and then drawing parallels with the death defying bravery of astronauts, Life On The Limit is an interesting if not entirely revolutionary watch.
It’s made apparent that the dangers inherent are matched only by the gritted determination of the drivers at its pinnacle. Invariably it’s demonstrated that the fastest, greatest drivers in the sport were the ones who were able to tune out the dangers within the cockpit.
Where the film does succeed is in highlighting the way in which, over the years, the chaos of the sport may have taken lives but it has also saved them by looking at ways to develop safety. It’s not just within motor racing itself that an impact has been felt but in normal road cars which have benefited from the advance technology refined in Formula One. At the start of the film crashes result in limp, lifeless bodies in the car, before showing modern day accidents, arguably more crunching than in the past, that see drivers casually walk away from the wreckage with a look of nonchalance.
The archive footage is outstanding and packs a mean punch in displaying the impact of endless crashes and fireballs as they erupt around the circuits. Meanwhile Michael Fassbender’s delicate narration brings a calming sensation to the torrential storm of the world of F1.
But overall examining a sport in what feels like a series of obituaries makes for a dour examination where perhaps a more celebratory one would have worked better. These drivers were fearless, they were all too aware of the risks involved but still they climb into the cars and throw caution to the wind. The advances in safety are stunning but the courage and competitive nature of these magnificent men and their driving machines deserves to be revered rather than viewed with shock.
Insightful and inspiring 1: Life On The Limit is one for the F1 fan, it won’t turn newcomers on to the sport but it successfully charts life in the fast lane.