He’s one of the most successful sports figures in history, but little is known about the man inside the car. In Schumacher, a new documentary film debuting on Netflix, gives us a rare private glimpse into the life and career of German Formula One legend Michael Schumacher. The film describes his rise from humble beginnings to the height of his sport.
SCHUMACHER: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essential: Jordan. James. Tiger. Serena. Brady. Michael Schumacher may not have the kind of name recognition with American viewers that some of these stars do, but his career stands out from almost everyone for its length and success. From the early 1990s until his retirement in 2012, Schumacher dominated Formula 1 racing, leaving the sport with a long list of records, including [deep breath] the greatest number of driver’s world championship titles, the greatest number of victories, the greatest number of pole positions, the greatest number of podiums, the greatest number of fastest laps and the greatest number of races won in a single season, [exhales] some of which are still standing almost a decade later. Despite all this success, Schumacher has kept his personal life close, rarely allowing fans to see the real person behind the trophies. Schumacher changes that, offering a rare personal window into his life, while offering little information on his current condition after a tragic skiing accident after his retirement.
What movies will this remind you of? : The most obvious parallel is the award-winning British documentary of 2010 Senna, who took an equally personal look at the life and career of one of F1’s best racers, in this case the late Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna.
Performances to watch: Schumacher’s backbone consists of contemporary interviews with personalities from the runner’s life and career, which help contextualize his rise; one of the most entertaining is former Benetton racing team manager Flavio Briatore, who colorfully marvels at the youngster’s early successes at the time, noting that he faced Ayrton Senna when, “five years ago he had a poster of Senna in the bedroom. “
Memorable dialogue: “We have always used the cheapest equipment available,” Schumacher recalls in an archival interview, noting his humble beginnings in a sport that is often the preserve of billionaires and aristocrats. “I fished discarded tires from the trash, put them on my kart and won races with them. I was always happy to have won with the worst and not the best equipment. Having to really fight like that was an added motivation for me.
Gender and skin: Nothing; it is a perfectly family film.
Our opinion : For the average American viewer, Formula 1 racing can be a bit of a mystery, although that has changed recently, with the Netflix series. Drive to survive and the more widespread distribution of races creating a new generation of fans. These new fans experience an engrossing sport both on and off the track, full of thrilling high-speed action and colorful aristocratic characters roaming both metaphorically and literally some of the world’s most glitzy places. These new viewers, admiring such figures as Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris, might want to learn more about the history and legends of the sport, and there is perhaps no better place to start that well. documentary designed on the legend of German racing.
The story of its success borders on legend; Coming from humble and rambling beginnings, Schumacher apparently came out of nowhere, securing a spot on a team mid-season after another driver was unavailable. He won his first title with Benetton in 1994, setting off a string of successes that would last for a decade and a half. In 1996 he moved to Ferrari – the legendary automaker had struggled for decades, not winning a championship since 1979. Schumacher would change that, winning five straight titles for Ferrari from 2000 to 2004. That drive is a main objective of Schumacher, and wisely, it is the meat of the runner’s career, his own personal dynastic moment.
Like most sports documentaries, most of the film is constructed from archival footage and contemporary interviews; in a media-friendly sport, that means we see Schumacher even as a teenage kart driver, just a starving kid with long-term dreams of the big time. The figures of his sports career and his personal life contextualize these first races well, seeing flashes of his champion personality even at 13 years old. Unfortunately and by necessity, when we hear Schumacher himself, it is through archival interviews conducted throughout his long career; after retiring for the second time in 2012, the rider suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident in 2013. The incident left Schumacher in a coma for months, and little has been made public about his state since; the documentary acknowledges this towards the end, although it offers little new information on how it is doing. This does not detract from the success of the film; it is a look back at the man’s life and career, rather than a current profile.
Our call: Stream it. Whether you are already a big fan of Formula 1, a beginner or just someone who is trying to figure out what it is, Schumacher is a great tale and a welcome look at what makes the sport so fascinating to so many people.
Scott Hines is an architect, blogger and internet user who lives in Louisville, Ky. With his wife, two young children and a noisy little dog.
To concern Schumacher on Netflix