Making the Grades
Despite deeper wrinkles and graying hairs, Anthony Hopkins continues to illuminate the big screen--mostly because he makes it look easy. The unaffected delivery of his dialogue brings realism to his characters, whether it's playing a reticent head butler in The Remains of the Day, a disgraced president in Nixon or a tortured academic in Proof.
In The World's Fastest Indian, Hopkins melds himself into the real life character of Burt Munro. The crusty, old motorcycle enthusiast lives along side his bike in a shed on an overgrown lot.
For nearly 40 years, Burt's tinkered with the classic Indian Scout motorcycle he bought as a young man. Rebuilding the engine and recasting parts from recycled material, he's pursued his life long passion for speed. After every upgrade, he takes the bike out and races along the sandy beaches of the New Zealand coastline, testing and retesting the engine's capabilities. Now as a 60-year-old eccentric, he dreams of riding the machine at a time trial on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
That means squirreling away whatever he can from his meager pension check, and relying on the fundraising efforts of his friends. When the finances are finally in place, Burt crates the bike and books passage on a freight ship. He does so with the help of his greatest fan, his young next-door neighbor (Aaron Murphy) who believes in the old man's vision as only a child can.
Docking in a Californian port with a paltry sum of money in his pocket, the motorcyclist encounters prostitutes, a transvestite (Chris Williams) and a classic used car salesman (Paul Rodriguez) before he ever gets out of Los Angeles. Once he's on the road, he admonishes smokers and drinkers he meets along the way to give up their vices. Yet at the same time Burt swears off cigarettes and liquor, he isn't hesitant about hopping in bed with his female friend (Annie Whittle) or an American widow (Diane Ladd) who exchanges trailer parts for sexual favors.
Still, those encounters--as well as some profanities--play as sideline diversions in a plot that focuses on Burt's mission to get to the flats and let 'er rip.
Becoming a land speed legend doesn't come easy and being decades older than the next competitor (Christopher Lawford) only adds to the challenge. However, the New Zealander's charm endears him to other cyclist buffs milling about on the windswept sands for Speed Week.
While gals may consider letting their guys go to this film alone, The World's Fastest Indian is about so much more than revving engines and speed demons. Based on a true story, the movie also extols the virtues of being resourceful, reserving judgment and holding fast to your dreams--whatever your age.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The World’s Fastest Indian.
For nearly 40 years, Burt refines and perfects the capabilities of his bike. What is the ultimate objective of his work? Why is this goal so important to him? How does his perseverance pay off?
Burt appears to reserve judgment when he encounters other people. How does that affect his relationship with others including Tom’s parents, Tina and the race officials? What is it about him that endears him to others? What does this script say about senior members of our society?
Much of what you see in this movie depicts the real process by which Burt refined his bike. For the complete story, check this site.