“Documentary”, the word conjures up the drone of a superannuated narrator’s monotonous discourse about life in the emerging urban sub-culture of the squid. Faster is not that kind of documentary.
It’s not about normal people in extraordinary circumstances, or even extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It’s about people who are absolutely passionate, and possibly insane, in a glamorous and dangerous profession; people who hurtle themselves around (and periodically off) a track at 200mph on freakishly powerful pieces of machinery mere inches from each other.
It’s a documentary about MotoGP racers. Actually it’s a lot more than that. Faster is a movie with characters and a story that works well on multiple levels.
Faster portrays a rivalry. The undoubtedly flawed (though not on the track) protagonist, Valentino Rossi and the almost sympathetic antagonist, Max Biaggi. For Biaggi the ferocity of this competition is counter-pointed by the impish nature of his nemesis. One ends up feeling for Biaggi because despite coming across as vain, narcissistic and jealous he can’t quite grab the crown from the jester Rossi. It’s easy to empathize with Biaggi’s frustration; the younger, slicker, faster Rossi almost always betters him. Worse, Rossi does this with panache and a seemingly effortless showmanship that is impetuous, likable, and tinged with a life-affirming passion. Rossi is a shit-disturbing Bugs Bunny on a 500cc Two-Stroke to Biaggi’s fuming, high-strung Elmer Fudd. You can almost hear the classical music…
Well, not quite. Faster is set to a hard driving, relentless, pulsing sound track that pushes it along. Likewise its footage. There is no high-end 1-week-of-filming-to-get-1-second-of-action sort of Hollywood fakery here. Faster is an independent tight-budgeted production directed by Mark Neale. The cinematography is equally tight utilizing press, news, original racing and some staged track footage to tell its story. Faster may not have had the budget, the time or the co-operation required to get absolutely perfect shots, but what comes across is much better. It is raw, manic and very honest — it feels driven like the sport it’s chronicling.
Watching Faster, with all its energy and rivalry, there is nothing you want to do more than race… there is also nothing you want to do less.
The price these riders pay is massive and debilitating. The cringe factor is high as we are barraged by frequent crashes; the racers at times “control the fall”… and then they don’t, and things go violently, horribly wrong. There are some angles the human leg was never meant to take on; Gary McCoy has learned this.
At times during Faster you fear for McCoy’s life, and can’t escape the thought that his elderly years have probably started in his 30s given his chronic state of injury. You do not fear for his sanity though, it long ago stepped out and has been replaced by a driving need to push – in the real world this would be considered a psychological ailment.
McCoy and others are racing on injuries that would leave mere mortals, like you and I, comfortably in our hospital beds begging for another round of morphine. In one telling scene, McCoy pulls out of a race because the screws holding his bones together are easing out, this is just wrong on too many levels to even start with.
“There is medicine and then there is motorcycle medicine!” says Dr. Costa, easily Faster’s most insightful character. “If Costa says you shouldn’t race, you don’t.” Listening to his philosophical insights you get the feeling that he is holding these racers together both physically and psychologically. Dr. Costa knows the racers in ways we can not or dare not conceive of. If their friends and family do not know their true limits, Costa does. To paraphrase Costa, these racers are candles burning very bright, for a short, intense time.
They do shine bright — sheer genius in motion — tail-ends-sliding-into-corners-with-control sort of bright. Outliers to the mediocrity of human genetics, they push harder, farther, faster and faster until they cannot push any more, then they crash. Then they do it again.
Faster shows us their lifecycle. We see its stages; promising fresh talent, John Hopkins, actualized contender Biaggi (we can’t include Rossi, not many reach the top), fading to mid-pack the oft-injured McCoy, retired veteran (Mick Doohan), and those not so lucky as to survive the full cycle.
Faster in a smaller way also tells of the evolution of the MotoGP. It’s an ode to the decline of the 500cc two-stroke, which Rossi describes as “riding is like… like… Fuck.” The two-strokes are unforgiving, temperamental and uncompromising beasts, strangely a lot like their riders.
Cinematically Faster has done well in portraying the bikes and men of the MotoGP with an amazing energy tied together by a soundtrack that drives it relentlessly. Faster also captures the contradictions of GP racing with amazing clarity; no movie will leave you wanting to race more, no movie will leave you wanting to race less.
Visit the Faster web site