Movie review: Senna

Posted on 22 June 2011
By Miv Evans
  • Share:


Senna is a riveting documentary about Ayrton Senna, the Formula One driver, whose passion, raw talent and religious beliefs gave him iconic status in life and mythical status in death. Spectacular moments jostle alongside the intimate which makes for compelling viewing whether you’re a race track fan or racing virgin.

This is the physical and spiritual story of how a young Brazilian interloper made the big time. It spans the years from Senna’s childhood, to his opening season as a Formula One driver in 1984 and, finally, to his tragic death ten years later. We meet his family, the doctor who became his mentor, his fans and the people who truly feared him: his competitors.

Senna made his debut at the Monaco Grand Prix as a 24 year-old unknown where the competition included no less than six World Champions. Senna was relegated to 13th place at the grid but, just as the cars set off, the heavens unleashed a torrential downpour and the moment Senna had been waiting for all his life arrived. He hugged the slick ground as no other driver can, thundered past every car in his path and made his courageous and impassioned bid for victory. He did it. He won. A legend was born.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is Senna’s relationship with the other drivers, in particular Alain Prost, whose relationship with Senna started as humorously competitive, then took on a more sinister edge, and finally reached the nadir when both drivers publicly dissed the other. Witnessing the serene, unassuming Senna have a good old go at Prost is a wonderfully human moment for the documentary, gives the Grand Prix a face and confirms, beyond doubt, that men can be as bitchy as women any day.

When Professor Sid Watkins, Senna’s Formula One doctor, suggested to Senna that they should both retire, Senna became deadly serious and simply replied “I can’t”. At this stage, he had become World Champion three times and achieved superstar status across the globe. There was, truly, nowhere else for him to go.

UK – 3rd June, 2011
Australia – 21st July, 2011
USA – 12th August, 2011