The World’s Fastest Indian
by Tony Medley
December was a tough month in
the movie critic business. Not only did we have to sit through Terence
Malick’s “The New World,” we also were subjected to “The Family Stone,” an
exercise in left wing, secular morality if ever there was one. Although
there were some good movies, these two, and some others, were bad enough
to leave a deep scar on the psyche.
So I warned my guest that if
“The World’s Fastest Indian,” which ran six minutes over two hours, was a
long, boring work, we would be beating a quick exit. It was OK with her
because she had been forced to endure much of “The
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” with me, also in December.
Much to our
surprise, this is a terrific, winning movie. Contrary to what the title
may imply, it is not about Jim Thorpe or any other Native American. The
“Indian” of the title is a 1920 motorcycle that has been lovingly
preserved by New Zealander Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins). Burt is a
basically destitute veteran living in a shack in a nice neighborhood in
Invercargill, New Zealand, the bottom of the world. His lifelong passion
has been to clock his bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. At the
age of 68, in 1963 he has only $1,200 to his name, so he takes a loan out
on his “house,” hops on a tramp steamer and works his way to America as a
this film so winning is an extraordinary performance by Hopkins. Burt is
such an ingenuous, likeable kiwi that everyone with whom he comes in
contact loves him and wants to help him, even though his task is worse
than Herculean. Once he arrives at the Salt Flats, his problems are just
I think that
the title is going to work against this film because it is so misleading.
“From Here to Eternity,” it is not. The people who go to see it will be
rewarded by a heartwarming, highly entertaining, feel good movie with a
performance by Hopkins that won’t soon be forgotten.