Bruce McLaren made cars. They went fast. Very fast. So fast, in fact, that they allowed him to win a lot of races. One day, while practising for a race, McLaren’s car span off and crashed and he died. But the company he started continues to produce cars, and maintains a significant presence in modern-day Formula One.
One wishes there were more to McLaren than this narrative – something more than having talking heads lay out the bare facts of his life story over archive footage. Sure, there are plenty of anecdotes about the somewhat interesting process of preparing for a race, but these are skimmed over fairly quickly, oiled along by percussive background music and snappy editing. Most stories focus on Bruce McLaren himself, who was, by almost all accounts, a nice man. He was happily married, and his crew was prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth. Why did he race? What made him successful? Was he an eccentric genius? An obsessive? What set him apart from his contemporaries, like Enzo Ferrari?
The documentary doesn’t really seem interested in these answers. Its aim, beyond saying “this happened, then this happened”, seems to lie in evoking the glamorous – and dangerous – world of Formula One in the 1960s. Which is fine, so long as there’s some kind of exciting simulation of race car driving. And there is! For about five seconds. In fact, the filmmakers clearly went out of their way to shoot reconstructed footage of a car going very fast, with bassy sound effects and everything. But did someone in the editing booth say, “No, this is too much… Let’s just have an old bloke say how fast cars go without showing it. That’ll blow their God damn minds!”?
At the very least, someone like Jenson Button should have been drafted in to give the film a bit of sex appeal, a bit of contemporary relevance – anything to distract from another anecdote about how great this guy was. Anything. PLEASE.
McLaren is released in selected cinemas on 25th May 2017.
Watch the trailer for McLaren here: