A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story (2020)
I follow modern F1, but I’ll admit my history is patchy. I know Juan Manuel Fangio of course, one of the very best... if not the best, but there’s opportunity to learn much more. However, the bar is set high for documentaries these days and this doesn’t really reach that bar. It’s quite formulaic, pretty dry, certainly in the opening half hour which is a dull history lesson through Fangio’s initiation into motor racing. Granted I learn he started at a surprisingly late age by today’s standards, being 37 when he first raced in Europe. It was a different time in motor sport, near impossible to compare today’s drivers to those from Fangio’s era and the pacing of A Life of Speed grinds to a halt as this topic is covered. Today it’s marginal gains, fast reaction speed, different tracks, radically different cars. There was no desire for comfort in the 50s and little thought to safety. I only mention this as it sadly seems to be the key point of the film. There’s lots of familiar faces, Stewart, Prost, Häkkien, Rosberg, Alonso, Wolff, coupled with plenty of archive footage, but it feels as much a history of F1 and motor racing as Fangio himself and nothing particularly new. Senna’s death, the horrific crash at Le Mans and some archive audio dubbing that sounds slightly suspect. Much is made of Fangio’s achievements, winning 5 championships with 4 different constructors, but this feels bolted on and really should have been the central theme. For me that’s where this suffers, structurally it’s very loose, well intentioned, but lacking pace and a good story arc. Frankly I think Fangio deserves better.