Stream it or skip it?

In 2013, professional runner and television personality Jessi Combs began a pursuit of the land speed record. That same year, she set the women’s land speed record, earning her the nickname “fastest woman on four wheels,” but her pursuit of history didn’t end there. His strenuous efforts to break new racing records – culminating in his death in an accident in 2019 – are at the center of The fastest woman in the worlda new feature-length documentary on HBO Max.

The essential: Viewers around the world knew Jessi Combs for her presence on television – as a host or a guest on shows such as Revision, The list: 1001 things to do in the car before you die, Garage for all the girlsand Mythbusters, shows where she demonstrated great knowledge of all things automotive and little fear of any challenge. Off-screen, his ambitions were even greater: to set the land speed record in a rocket-powered car. Recruited by an amateur racing team to be their star, she quickly set women’s records, but her life would end in a tragic accident during a sprint in 2019. The fastest woman in the world follows her from those early attempts to the very end, with footage from the era giving her a big screen presence here too.

What movies will this remind you of? : HBO in particular excels at extreme sports documentaries, which recalls some of the life and death circumstances of their recent miniseries. edge of the earthwith a little more Top of the line in the mix.

Performance to watch: There is significant emotional and technical context given in contemporary interviews with members of the racing team and Combs’ family, including the touching and insightful comments of the late Ed Shadle, crew chief of the racing team. Combs’ North American Eagle Project race. But the heart of The Fastest Woman on Earth’s success is the amount of contemporary footage from Combs herself – it doesn’t feel like an afterthought, it feels like we’ve been riding alongside her from the start.

Memorable dialogue: “For the most part, I’m just a normal girl,” Combs herself describes, in response to a documentary filmmaker’s question posed before her death. “But I live a life that is risky. I don’t live a normal daily life. I had a desk job once – it lasted six months. Because I don’t know how to be what I am not. And when it comes to cars, when it comes to driving, I think that’s what I was born to do.

Sex and skin: None.

Our opinion : The hunt for land speed records is not for the faint of heart. Technically, it’s just driving a car really fast. In practice, however, it’s about strapping yourself inside a missile and screaming it through a patch of salty desert, a business where a million things can go wrong and any of them. they could turn out to be catastrophic.

But Jessi Combs has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

Motorsport is a predominantly male-dominated world, but Jessi Combs has unabashedly navigated her way through it, building a career both on and off-screen building and racing cars.

“Everything she did, she did it all the way, and when it was time for her to flee the nest, she did it, and she did it big,” recalls the brother of Combs when she left her South Dakota home at 19 after meeting a biker at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

His mechanical sense was not an on-screen creation; Combs’ family fondly remember her finishing first in her class at technical school, setting the tone for her future drive for success – to quote Ricky Bobby, “if you’re not first, you’re the last”.

Combs’ rise parallels that of Kitty O’Neil a generation earlier – O’Neil, a groundbreaking stuntwoman who set the previous women’s land speed record before giving up extreme efforts after seeing colleagues and friends die. In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, Combs meets O’Neil and discusses the importance of their work in breaking down barriers, receiving the elder daredevil’s blessing in an attempt to break his record. It’s clear from the scene that O’Neil feels some concern for Combs, a concern that would prove to be well-founded a few years later.

HBO’s sports documentaries aren’t usually fluffy or filler — they regularly feature movies that pick a gripping, if often esoteric, subject matter and give it a polished, well-produced, well-paced product. The fastest woman in the world is no exception to this; even if you know nothing about the world of high-speed racing, the film sucks you in, delivering a presentation that walks a tightrope – it’s neither inscrutable insider nor broad patronizing. In general, some of the best documentaries happen when the subjects aren’t fully aware of the story they’re telling at the time; it is tragically true in The fastest woman in the worldbut it’s a great storytelling.

Our call: SPREAD IT. Even if you weren’t familiar with Combs’ extensive TV presence, his story is worth watching – compelling, tragic, and compelling.

Scott Hines is a Louisville, KY-based architect, blogger, and knowledgeable internet user who publishes the popular Action Cookbook Newsletter.


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