Sunday, 11 March 2012

Double Bill Mini Musings: Racers & Hoodies...

There's not much that I could say about this excellent, involving and gripping Bafta-winning documentary about one of the greatest F1 drivers in history, that you haven't already heard. Indeed, it does work (very well in fact) for those without prior knowledge or interest in F1 racing, it does have a great rivalry at the heart of it between the eponymous racer and his main competitor Alain Prost, and it manages to sweep you up in the sheer thrill of speed with choice cuts of driver's seat footage which is frankly terrifyingly fast. What's more it lays bare some of the political maneuvering at the heart of the F1 world - points and strategy versus sheer heart and determination, obediance to the suits versus defending your dream.

The tragedy of Senna's death at Imola in 1994 is handled with poise; an appropriate amount of impending inevitability is afforded to the haunting footage of Senna's last corners speeding by, the deadly precise crash itself, and the words of the F1 Doctor and friend of Senna describing the man's final breath. Truly great documentaries open a niche world (be they small or even relatively large) to the masses, allowing laymen to appreciate the events depicted on screen with the same sense of involvement as the impassioned followers of the subject at hand. Senna most certainly achieves that goal.

Bleak, miserable and minimalist ... it must be a British horror movie then. A teacher loses all his confidence in the classroom after one of his students headbutts him after being taunted for his academic failure (hence the title of the movie). Some time later, said teacher has turned to drink and has become ineffectual in teaching his students, split from his wife, and dislocated from his daughter. Then on one rather dark night, with many of the staff curiously staying behind a very long time indeed after the final bell has rung, a gang of faceless and hooded parkour enthusiasts descend upon the school to creep around in the dark, run around on top of shelf stacks, and dish out senseless violence.

Naturally, as part of the 'hoody horror' sub-genre (also see the rather depressing Eden Lake), there's not a lot of genre joy to be found. Many of the adults are idiots (either intentionally or accidentally) with little to do but not believe the protagonist and get bumped off (in a genuinely shocking fashion, in one instance), and there are a handful of plot holes that raise a few eyebrows along the way. The script feels a bit too sparse, the pacing is a bit too slow, and there's a frustrating lack of achievement as a viewer. You barely get a shred of vengeance to make up for all the suffering (perhaps this was intentional, but it's no fun as a viewer - so why ever watch it a second time?) and yet the ending - no spoilers here - does pose an excellent moral quandry to hauntingly go out on. It's just a shame that the rest of the flick wasn't of the same quality as its ending.

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