I rarely watch movies, much less make recommendations. If I want great drama, excitement, or a human interest story, I watch motorsports. Racing has it all covered with a roller coaster of emotions from the highest of highs to lowest of lows. "1" the Formula One film, contains all these emotions and more in spades.
I had put off seeing "1," simply because the few reviews I read focused on the glamour of the racing era the film makers covered, mainly the 60's and 70's. As exciting as that era was, I wasn't pressed to hear yet again about James Hunt's coke use, or how much drivers drank and slept around. When I finally decided to watch it, I was blown away.
The main focus of the film is actually the rise in driver and car safety of the most popular motorsport in the world. Done as a documentary with interviews from Sir Jackie Stewart to Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as former FIA President Max Mosley, and Bernie Ecclestone, this incredible film shows the struggles those men went through on their way to improving the sport they loved. As an admirer of Jackie Stewart and Mr. Fittipaldi before, they rose to true hero status by the end of the film. Both drivers were leaders in making racing safer, all the while meeting resistance from their fellow competitors, race organizers, and the FIA. They accomplished this while being world champions, and using both coercion and controversial tactics. Listening to Stewart discussing being outvoted by Hunt and Jacky Ickx when he wanted to boycott a race, or Fittipaldi purposefully exiting a race that eventually led to the death of four spectators, is not to be missed. Ecclestone's recollections of his working and personal relationship with Jochen Rindt positively humanizes the King of F1. Jochen's death was the final catalyst in changing Bernie's views on driver's safety. As both Bernie and Max Mosley rose to power in the F1 world, they made enormous strides in making the series safer for all. Max in particular knew that change would have to come from higher up, and not from just a select few drivers.
This movie is not for the faint of heart. From Stewarts memories of racing in an era where four drivers died in as many months, to footage of numerous crashes and fires, this is a warts and all film. You are not seeing a recreation of Lauda's fire. You watch the crash and fire. You see Niki's face right as he emerges from the vehicle. You watch as David Purley heroically tries to pull Roger Williamson from an upside down car that's shooting flames at the Dutch Grand Prix. With seven minutes left in the film, I was reduced to tears.
Luckily, the film goes on to cover the 80's and up to the late 90's when Martin Brundle had a horrific looking accident at the Australia Grand Prix in 1996. He walked away without a scratch. A testament to all the hard work of previous generations of drivers, engineers, mechanics, and doctors. Yes, the great Sid Watkins makes an appearance. Dr.Watkin's, the one person that Bernie Ecclestone deferred to, that's how important a role he played.
"1" is available on iTunes and VOD in the US. It will be out in the UK by early next year.
The official site with great photos and more information is here.