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The World's Fastest Indian
Almost 40 years after making his film debut in a Lindsay Anderson short, Anthony Hopkins shows no signs of slowing down. Hot on the heels of Proof, a slow-burning character study based on David Auburn's award-winning stage play, comes The World's Fastest Indian, a heart-warming real life tale of determination and perseverance in the face of adversity. As ever, Hopkins commands the screen, playing an eccentric motorcycle enthusiast with a troublesome heart condition who leaves his home in New Zealand to embark on an extraordinary adventure of self-discovery. "You live more in five minutes on a bike like this, than most people do in a lifetime," gushes his geriatric racer, who gives his machine added pep by dropping a heart pill into the gas tank ("One for myself and one for the old girl"). The accent is more West Country than South Island but the veteran Welsh actor sparkles, investing his plucky sexagenarian with warmth and a lust for life that is difficult to resist. It's one of his most subtle and unshowy performances in years, creating a lovable larrikin whose gentle spirit and pure heart overcome all obstacles. The World's Fastest Indian recounts the charming true story of Burt Munro, whose lifelong dream is to travel to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and set a new land speed record on his lovingly restored 1920 Indian Twin Scout. Burt is something of a maverick in his hometown of Invercargill. He urinates, in full view of the neighbours, on the lemon tree in his back garden. And when someone asks him to cut his wildly overgrown lawn, he forgoes the obvious solution - a mower - and chooses to douse his yard with petrol and set it on fire. Despite his quirks and foibles, Burt is well loved in the community and the residents of the town rally round to help the old-timer achieve his goal. With the support of the locals, especially young next door neighbour Tom (Aaron Murphy), Burt uses all of his savings to embark on the round the world journey, meeting lovable characters along the way including gender-bending hotel receptionist Tina (Chris Williams) and a lonely spinster (Diane Ladd). A number of obstacles stand between Burt and his date with destiny: the dusty roads inflict serious punishment on the trailer holding Burt's beloved motorcycle, and when he does finally arrive at he hallowed ground in Utah, the New Zealander faces a barrage of administrative red tape before he can rev up. Directed with a light touch by Roger Donaldson, this gentle paced road movie is a joyous and quirky slice of life that inspires laughter and tears in equal measure, with underlying rich vein of earthy humour. There's disappointingly little discussion of Burt's history and the film is a little on the long side, but it pushes all of the right emotional buttons. The final scenes in Utah, when Burt hurtles across the salt plains into the records books, leave a large lump in the throat. His 1967 speed record remains unbroken to this very day.