The best approach when viewing a documentary is to either be a complete expert on its given subject (and therefore be able to pick up on the issues skirted over, simplified or downright ignored) or an utter ignoramus (and therefore use the piece as your only learning tool). In the case of Faster, I fall into the latter category and as such come to it with certain expectations. Indeed, my only awareness of Moto GP, for that is its subject, extends only to one Mr. Barry Sheene, to whom the film is dedicated. More to the point, I also feel justified in my expectations as Faster comes with voice-over narration from Ewan MacGregor and received a theatrical run in the US; both factors you’d presume were the result of wishing to attract – and satisfy – as wide an audience as possible.
Certainly, there’s plenty to learn as Faster covers the 2002/2003 season. MacGregor and a raft of talking heads – everyone from the riders themselves through to journalists, medics, mechanics and family members – provide us with an onslaught of information. We get the very basics – rules, points system and the like – and that which is integral to the season in hand, namely the various characters and their rivalries. All of which is well and good, save for one key factor…
For, sadly, Faster is lacking any kind of overall structure, something which may seem odd given that it covers a race season from start to finish. Of course, there is this basic chronology in pace, but other overriding factors come into play. At times the film feels like nothing more than a compilation of crash footage – seemingly we’re unable to survive beyond five minutes of screen time without witnessing some injury or other.
Indeed, Faster is guilty of presuming that we have an extremely low attention span. As such it makes sense only in tiny portions, but never quite achieves an all-encompassing coherency. In may digress, for example, to concentrate on an up-and-coming rider such of John Hopkins, or to trace the rivalry between Biaggi and Rossi, and during these little passages if you will, it proves to be very good indeed. The amount of footage the filmmakers have had access to is really quite remarkable as are the sheer numbers of interviewees, but then as soon as we get into one of these mini-narratives we’re pulled out again as it decides to focus elsewhere, most commonly on some more crash footage.
The big problem this creates, beyond a certain amount of audience frustration, is that before long Faster loses any sense of urgency, even though this may seem a contradiction in terms. Certainly, everything a quality documentary would need appears to be present and correct, but sadly Faster seems to have fallen apart in the editing suite. And as such it isn’t just the newcomers who will come away disappointed, but the die hard fans as well.
Given the wealth of material which makes of Faster, its presentation is certainly variable. From shoddy home video to cutting edge DV, the film covers them all and in disc form does very well. Certainly, the transfer would appear to be technically sound and able copes with the often abstract mixture of barely discernible shapes and colours. Furthermore, we also get the film anamorphically enhanced, meaning that we are likely to be getting in as fine a condition as could be expected.
Soundwise, Faster comes with a DD5.1 mix which, as you’d expect, makes full use of the surround channels. Truly enveloping, especially during the pit stop footage, the only problem is has is that the scoring is decidedly lacklustre, with tomandandy contributing an atypical non-descript chugging guitar accompaniment (a real surprise having recently experiences their fine score for Mean Creek). Otherwise, Faster’s presentation is technically sound and generally impressive.
As for supplementary material, here we find two discs worth – quite a surprise for what is no doubt a minority interest release. The first disc has the film itself accompanied by some multi-angle race excerpts. Rather self-explanatory, these allow us flit between various master shots and “biker cams”, though the fact that each piece only has an average length of two minutes means that they are ultimately fairly insignificant.
The major extra then is the centrepiece of the disc, a sequel of sorts to the main feature entitled Faster and Faster ’03 - ‘04. Once again, MacGregor returns for voice-over duties and likewise everything else is pretty much in place. As such this means that the various flaws are also present, though given its shorter running time (48 mins), it is perhaps the more focused of the two.
Rounding of the package we also have 14 deleted scenes are varying interest (and to be honest most of them could have been inserted into the finished film without anyone really noticing) plus the ubiquitous theatrical trailer. All in all, a decent enough collection no doubt adds value to the film overall.
As with the main feature, all extras come with optional English HOH subtitles were applicable. Note, however, that these are of the variety which appear in sizeable black boxes.
Anthony Nield takes a look at Faster, Mark Neale's documentary glimpse at the Moto GP scene, here available as an extras packed two-disc set.