McLaren (the movie)

Review by Larry Mason, June 2017

Copyright © 2017 Larry Mason

The latest documentary chronicling the successful career, and ultimately tragic demise of a superstar race car driver, should be on every true racing fan’s list to see. Bruce McLaren was not only a winning race car driver – in fact the youngest ever to win a Formula One grand prix at the age of 22, but he also became a legendary race car designer, constructor and champion in a car bearing his name before his untimely death at the age of 32. The McLaren name is synonymous with success, and continues to make hearts beat faster to this day.

The story tells about the physical challenges McLaren experienced as a youth growing up in New Zealand and depicts how he works his way to the top of the racing world as a driver and race car constructor, told through the eyes of his former teammates, employees and racers. The stories include interviews with McLaren’s wife, team manager, close friends and associates.  They provide the authenticity to the aura that surrounds his legacy for those who have heard of him and are familiar with his name, but were not around, or familiar with, the heyday of racing in the 60s and 70s.

The movie starts with a cacophony of engine noise and a visual explosion of close-up racing action; however, the first bits of dialogue (during my screening) were overshadowed by the external threat to the ears, making one wish that there were subtitles to go with the spoken words.  Fortunately, the rest of the spoken audio in the movie is quite clear. Great racing action from an era long gone offers glimpses into the danger the drivers faced, and the excitement of those cars and tracks. Pure, flat-out racing with simplistic racing cars evolves through time into what was then hightech, and experimental cars that were dreamed up in the mind of McLaren and those he had hired to gain a competitive advantage. The movie is truly a living eulogy of how McLaren came to be, and gives the viewer an even greater appreciation of who Bruce McLaren was and why he and his cars were so revered.

The “good news” part of the movie is that there are the great personal interviews with his wife, and those from his inner circle. There are also many personal tape recordings featured throughout the film that McLaren had sent to his family in New Zealand, telling them of his exploits in Europe. Family movies are also featured that show McLaren at his humble best. The “bad news” part is that sadly, four of those interviewed in the movie passed away during the two-year production.

After the screening at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, the director, Roger Donaldson (The World’s Fastest Indian, Dante’s Peak, Cadillac Man, Cocktail) was asked, “After two years on this production, what was your best reflection of Bruce McLaren?His answer came quick and clear – “I couldn’t find one bad word about him. Not one person would say, or did I find anything in what I was looking through, that would suggest that anybody had anything other than good things to say about him, which is pretty extraordinary.”

If you’re not a race fan, this movie is an educational insight into how racing used to be, and how it has evolved over the years from the standpoint of a highly-driven individual. For the race fan, this movie should be on your “must-see list.”

McLaren the movie will be in limited release. For a complete list of showings, go to: https://www.mclarenfilmusa.com/

You can also watch the official movie trailer at: http://www.mclarenfilm.com/videos/

Running Time: 92 minutes
Rating: NR (Not Rated)