1: Life on the Limit, directed by Paul Crowder
Blu Ray / DVD, 107 minutes
© 2013, Distributed by Hopscotch Films / eOne Films Australia


The new action Formula 1 documentary charting its history, 1: Life at the Limit, has hit retail shelves in Australia last week.

If I made a Formula 1 movie, this would be the one I’d want to make.” Bernie Ecclestone

Narrated by Hollywood actor and self-confessed Formula 1 nut Michael Fassbender, 1 tells the story of the sport’s glamour, speed, danger and excitement of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing, particularly focusing on the technical developments that have contributed to making the sport so much safer in the last 20 years.

The film opens and closes with Martin Brundle’s spectacular opening-lap accident at the 1996 Australian Grand Prix, cleverly setting the audience up to bring them full circle in order to highlight the massive progress that has been made to improve driver safety.

F1 fans will know that the safety push in the sport was triggered as long ago as the late 1960s by the likes of Jackie Stewart, who in turn passed the baton on to the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, Professor Sid Watkins and Max Mosley.

By contrast, the likes of Colin Chapman and Jacky Ickx were very much cast as pantomime villains; the former for designing brilliant cars that were ultimately too unsafe, and the latter for his old-school anti-GPDA approach.

The documentary is played out with a rapid-fire collage of some of the best archival footage you’re likely to see, while its cutaway interviews with the sport’s stars of the day – drivers, officials, team owners and designers – effectively tell the story for the audience, with Fassbender’s husky narrative filling in the gaps where required.

The film is an emotional rollercoaster, peaking with victory celebrations and ebbing with constant reminders of how the shadow of death continued to loom over the grid each time a Grand Prix came around.

The deaths of Jim Clark (1968), Jochen Rindt (1970), Helmut Koinigg (1972), Roger Williamson and François Cevert (both 1973) are all covered, most importantly without the trap of sensationalism that the film could easily have fallen into.

If I had one critique – and that’s no fault of the film-makers – it is how Mosley tries to cast himself as the bastion of motorsport safety. Of course, he triggered many changes that have ensured no driver fatalities since the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, but for him to claim that he was a crusader prior to that as a co-founder of the March F1 team is wildly inaccurate.

1: Life on the Limit is edge of the seat viewing, beautifully told, violent, tragic and triumphant. If ever you wanted an obituary to the sport’s fallen and a celebration of its pioneering crusaders, then this should be compulsory viewing.

It’s a great shame that Hopscotch Films elected not to give this a cinematic release in Australia. Granted, the subject matter is quite specialist, but this is such an outstanding film that it really deserves to be shown in all its glory.

Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we will award 1: Life on the Limit…

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OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.

1: Life on the Limit is available for sale at all major DVD retailers. Our review copy was kindly provided to us by Hopscotch Films.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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