Documentary Review: ‘Rapid Response’

Review by Bradley Smith

If you are the type of person that watches auto racing for the crashes, the first half of this documentary is for you. For everybody else, Rapid Response is a well-crafted history lesson about the development of safety standards in auto racing from filmmakers Roger Hinze and Michael Miles, producers of the TV documentary Yellow Yellow Yellow: The IndyCar Safety Team.

In the early days of auto racing, safety was barely an afterthought even as driver after driver kept racing their way to an early grave. What seems like common sense today, like having well trained medics at the race or going to a hospital that is equipped for the procedures require, was not even a fantasy. It was not until a medical student and race car fan, Dr. Stephen Olvey, got an inside view of the standards that things started to change for the better. Dr. Olvey, along with other legends of the industry like Mario Andretti and Rick Mears, tells his story in earnest detail, step by step from needing to pick a new “favorite driver” every couple weeks because their old favorite was killed in a race to the influences that followed his and his team’s work.

I found this documentary rather interesting, even though I have nearly zero interest in race car driving. As one might expect, it is mostly archive footage along with voiceover and new interview footage from various contributors; nothing spectacular but it is blended together nicely. Along with discussions of death and severe bodily harm, there is a lot of crash footage shown seemingly on a loop to emphasize how dangerous the “sport” used to be, so sensitive viewers might want to move along. Aside from that, listening to Dr. Olvey and the other contributors talk about their love of the industry and their advancements is inspirational.

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