As you go further into Akos Armont’s Brabham, the more confused the film appears to get what it wanted to be. While it can be a solid introduction to the life of multi-time Formula 1 champion Jack Brabham, it never delves deep enough, which is a terrible shame.
Brabham reveals the making of an icon, the forgotten godfather of modern Formula One racing, Sir Jack Brabham. Exposing the media’s role in creating sporting myths, Brabham tells a “David and Goliath” tale of an Australian hero pitted against the giants of Ferrari, Lotus and Maserati. Jack Brabham remains the only person to have won the F1 Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships in his car.
Strangely for a film like this, it doesn’t tread down the line of what made Brabham become such a force in racing, and by not scratching the surface of that, we do not get a documentary that connects as well. Especially considering how important Jack Brabham was to motorsport. Perhaps this is due to how little the very private Brabham shared with others. That is stated as such within the documentary. Also, for the most part, the majority of his contemporise of that dangerous era has passed away, drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio, Graham Hill, Jim Clark. Even owners of teams such as garagistas like Colin Chapman and Bruce Maclaren. So by speeding through what brought Brabham to the sport and his journey to his first two championships, we lose a little of the man’s impact.
Considering how integral this is to how we feel when we learn about his sons’ journey in motorsport, it becomes a shame. We only learn that Jack was a quiet yet intense man who wanted results in an affordable fashion. Yet Brabham, in this format, becomes a well-intended, almost introductory look at the great driver and the legacy that he formed from his sons.
As Brabham tries to navigate its elusive subject, it ventures into other threads throughout the running time. We see what racing conditions were like for drivers in the 50’s and 60’s. The lack of health and safety present for them. No Armco barriers, not even fences to protect them. Showing their fearlessness in the pursuit of glory is something that echoes throughout that era. As Jackie Stewart iterates, drivers had to be crafty to obtain an advantage, even if it came to the cost of their fellow competitors. Though if you want a more detailed and heartbreaking look at what that was like, you should watch Grand Prix: The Killer Years, which is an all-time favourite.
The last act of Brabham focuses more on his sons post-retirement and what influence, positive or negative that he had on them as they furthered their careers into the sport. There are many good moments within the final act that you wonder why the entire piece wasn’t focused on. Deep within the documentary, two stories are being told, and neither get as much time as they need to shine, and with such a short running time, you feel it always has one hand tied behind its back regarding its scope.
An issue constant throughout the documentary is the needless inclusion of random outtakes of some of the talking head segments. This severely hurts Ron Dennis, and instead of using him as the fountain of knowledge, he would be about the sport he has been involved in for so many decades. He becomes wasted. At times, when the film is flowing nicely, we will cut away to something like that, and it just feels oddly misplaced for what story they were trying to tell. Equally, animations of Ron Tauranac selling the Brabham racing team to a ghoulish Bernie Ecclestone are present.
For what purpose remains a bit of a mystery if we are honest. Anyone who knows Formula 1 knows the type of person Ecclestone is. Yet to go out of their way seems almost malicious for a documentary that plays it very straight and sees where the final act goes as we see how two of his sons almost followed in their fathers’ footsteps in the sport. To get acceptance or have him in their lives due to how missing he was in their early years when racing around the world. It simply doesn’t connect.
By being a film that should focus on the career of such a driver and man as Jack Brabham, we are left feeling empty. There is never enough focus on him, and the entire piece feels too general. We have people who knew him and were bound to have stories; sadly, everything seems to be fast-forwarded without much thought. There would have been historians who could have detailed that season in which he won his championships, people involved in the sport are still alive. By trying to be a film about history and the legacy, we end up with neither. However, as said, as an introductory piece about Jack Brabham, it more than suffices, but not much more than that.
Dazzler Media presents Brabham on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital now.
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