Blu-ray Review: 1 (2012)

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Full Title: The True Story of the Drivers Who Risked Their Lives and Changed the Sport Forever

Even before they began looking more and more like rocket ships and aerodynamics versus engines were debated along with wing span and size, the history of the Grand Prix and Formula 1 racing had a lot in common with flight.

Yet years before they began taking more and more risks, masking faster and more dangerous cars in the process as if to compete with the space race on the ground while living the same lifestyle as the astronauts did in the deadliest era of the sport when a driver perished nearly every weekend, Formula 1 took its cues from the sky.

Born in World War II, in an era of hero pilots and where on the pages of comic books men could indeed fly, the seriousness with which the sport began is fascinating to behold in filmmaker Paul Crowder’s richly detailed documentary 1, narrated by Michael (Man of the Moment) Fassbender and released on a gorgeously clear, diamond sharp Blu-ray with engine roaring multi-channel sound.

Released to coincide with the home entertainment release of director Ron Howard’s acclaimed Formula 1 biopic Rush, while Rush chronicles the relationship between two drivers, Crowder’s carefully researched 1 plays like a brilliant, in-depth companion piece to Howard’s film and likewise serves as one hell of a double feature destined to get your adrenaline and hormones firing on all cylinders.

Filled with first-person interview accounts and historical footage, vintage photos and documents as well as previously unexplored points-of-view the uninitiated, casual viewer and/or NASCAR focused fan wouldn’t be aware of, 1 should also appeal to those who were riveted by the recent documentary that centered on the last Formula 1 driver to perish at the wheel of a car via 2010’s Senna.

A richly layered, detailed account of the sport with a special focus on its monumental safety concerns along with the number of challenges faced in making Formula 1 safer – from the need for a top-down paradigm shift where both manufacturers and drivers could be on the same page at the same time, 1 chronicles the brave drivers who dared to speak up for change.

Acknowledging the macabre truism and cruel twist of fate that – similar to the dangers of concussions and brain damage in football – a number of individuals have to perish before notable change occurs, the film charts a variety of attempts to remedy the problem.

Illustrating the reason that Formula 1’s safety levels spiraled so out of control so unbelievably quickly as well as the role that airing the races on television played in speeding up the case for the men behind the wheel as you couldn’t ignore death staring you in the face on your own living room television, Crowder’s documentary manages to cover a lot of ground in its brisk 111 minute running time.

Despite this, it does get a bit hard to keep all of the drivers separate and remember who is who in a sea of talking heads and amusing anecdotes that jump back and forth in time despite Crowder’s best effort to keep the film chronological.

Nonetheless from the vintage footage to the exploration of the different racetracks and differences in Grand Prix events, this fascinating documentary that I’m sure would be particularly thrilling in IMAX 3D is a riveting piece of cinematic motor sports history that chronicles the brave men who dared to go faster than a bird, plane or rocket – from the seat of a Formula 1 racecar.

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