In `60s New Zealand, at the bottom of the world, Burt Munro takes a 1920 Indian motorcycle and, delightfully without resources other than his own obsession and a Kiwi #8 wire mentality, spends his retirement rebuilding the bike and following his dream to go to Speed Week at Salt Lake in Utah. Under funded, without the support of a team and against all the odds he not only makes it to Bonneville, he sets a national land speed record, not once, but again and again.
A movie that exudes affection and goodwill, The World's Fastest Indian
is an unabashed mash note to a lovely character from New Zealand's recent past. Burt Munro, played by Anthony Hopkins, is a cantankerous Kiwi with an obsession: he's been tinkering with his 1920s-era Indian brand motorcycle for years, pushing it to ever-faster speeds. It's the 1960s, and Burt has the utterly mad idea of taking the bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, site of world records for speed racing. The movie takes a while to get to the journey--and then the journey takes a while--but the genial atmosphere prevails. (People of a certain age, for whom the word "Bonneville" evokes pleasant associations with hotrods and world-speed records, will not be disappointed in the film's location shooting, or its sense of awe.) Hopkins is not quite on-the-money casting for the jovial, happy-go-lucky Munro, and his accent wavers, but he nails the emotional scenes and the fascination with speed. Smaller bits are well-filled by Diane Ladd and Christopher Lawford (son of Peter), who looks uncannily of the era. New Zealand director Roger Donaldson doesn't take any chances here, but the story clearly means something to him, and that sense of commitment carries the film through its sleepier moments. --Robert Horton