Schumacher 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher was a famously private man. Since the 2013 skiing accident that pushed him closer to the brink of death than any incident on the track did, his family has ensured that Schumacher’s recovery process has been as private as one would expect. This also seems to extend to the new Netflix documentary Schumacher, which takes a look at the charismatic champion’s iconic career, without delving too hard or too deep.
The documentary might serve as a quick primer for those not well acquainted with the racing exploits of the former Ferrari driver, but it doesn’t quite have the narrative chops to turn a legitimately great sporting figure’s story into one that’s worthy of his legacy. From its largely linear structure to its staid talking-head format, the film’s benign treatment barely ever captures the true thrill of a sport like no other.
What are some of the qualities that make for a great F1 driver? You’ll get a sense of Schumacher’s perspective on that in the first few minutes of the film. Archival Schumi voiceover tells us about it while we see a dash-cam view of a Ferrari – presumably a Schumacher lap – through the tight corners of the legendary Monaco circuit. It is about aspiring for perfection, we hear him say. Generic F1 driver spiel, a version of the kind of thing you expect Ayrton Senna might have said, or Lewis Hamilton would say as well. Lesser drivers would probably concur.
It is a sport of the tightest, barest margins. So much hinges on human and machine being in sync in a way that few other activities afford. The emotional element comes mostly through the person in the cockpit. All sports push the body to its limits, but in F1, the threat to life is very real. It is why Asif Kapadia’s Senna is such a great sports documentary; it channels the emotion behind Senna’s charge all through.
Even though you know what the documentary is leading towards (and even if you aren’t a hardcore F1 fan) you’re still likely to feel shivers up your spine as it builds up to Senna’s fatal accident at Imola. (Ironically, it occurred when Senna was trying his best to stay ahead of a young, fearless Michael Schumacher – the man with possibly the nearest view of the crash.)
Schumacher, the film, aspires to be like Senna (the film, again). But in an age where sporting documentaries have taken up the long-form route, this film doesn’t seem too different from the kind of stuff YouTube would throw at you, if you searched for ‘schumacher documentary’. In fact, a few of those would give you more insight into the man and his driving style than the documentary does.
Where the film does succeed is in reminding us that Schumacher’s domination on track wasn’t because he was in the best car, something you often hear people say today. His first three world championships came with constructors that wouldn’t have been winning if it weren’t for him. He was just the quickest of them all, with no exception. When Schumacher joined Scuderia Ferrari, it was struggling, its glorious legacy far in the rearview mirror.
Schumacher took it up as a challenge and demanded a whole new level of commitment and professionalism towards developing the car. That’s what turned the tide for the Prancing Horse, churning out a period of dominance that has only been matched by Mercedes GP in the last decade, that too after the onset of the turbo-hybrid era. While the film manages to acknowledge his contribution to not just the team’s fortunes, but to the sport in general, it still falls short of painting a picture of the man beyond what was already known.
His professional career had enough meat in it to make for a The Last Dance-styled series covering each of his seven championships, and the numerous on-track battles he had with some truly great contemporaries over the years. In this 112-minute film, we speed through years and championships, barely touching upon any of them in substantial detail. Even his short return to F1 after retiring in 2010 is skimmed through in just a few minutes towards the end.
Expectedly, his moments of controversy are also merely mentioned in passing, despite those being chapters of his life that humanised him more than anything else. On two occasions in his career, while leading the world championship by the slimmest of margins, Schumacher collided with his title rival. On at least one of those occasions, the mistake was clearly Schumacher’s, if you can even call it a mistake when you see him attempt to drive into his rival instead of attempting a clean manoeuvre. It saw unprecedented action being taken against him by the governing body. And while it in no way diminishes his achievements or his sporting greatness, it is the sort of thing you need to delve into long and hard today, to make any sense of the attributes that really made him the champion he was.
The film’s best moments come when Schumacher’s family is talking about him – his wife Corrina, his daughter Gina and his son Mick (who incidentally made his F1 debut this year at the age of just 22). It shows him as a loving family man away from the track, and it puts into perspective how his life away from the public glare has been since he retreated into private treatment.
He was a racing driver, though. Possibly the greatest ever, though that might be up for debate. A really effective Schumacher documentary would do well to stir up that debate and make the case for why he’s better, for instance, than the two great champions on either side of him, Senna and Hamilton (though these comparisons only make for great chatter, with no way to really prove anything). The good news, then, is that the definitive Schumacher film is yet to be made.