Max Mosley died from cancer earlier this year, aged 81. None of us can control how we are remembered when we are gone. But this documentary feels like Mosley is trying his damnedest to steer his legacy from the grave.
After his death on 23 May 2021, the BBC headlined his obituary with ‘privacy campaigner and ex-motorsports boss’. The Guardian was less reserved, calling him the ‘ruthless Formula One supremo’ and the son of the British Union of Fascists’ leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. While, The Sun, whose former sister paper The News of The World Mosely famously sued for breach of privacy, printed what they called, ‘Max Mosley’s dark past of conflict, kinky sex and ‘racist shame’’. But who was the real Max Mosley? Like this documentary says: it’s complicated.
Film producer and director, Michael Shevloff says although Mosley cooperated with the film makers, ‘Mosley: It’s Complicated’ isn’t an authorised documentary. Watching it you might feel otherwise, as it gives the sense of Mosley having his say, to face-off what might be coming that he can’t respond to.
In it he addresses many of the darker issues he has been associated with, while making one last push for greater press regulation. The documentary brings in fellow privacy campaigner, actor Hugh Grant, to further bang this drum. But the crusading feels bitter and dated. Yes, there were many things wrong with press activities, particularly of the Tabloids, before the Leveson inquiry. But neither Mosley nor Grant give any attention to how the media landscape has changed, with the subsequent rise of social media and the smartphone. It feels like a personal vendetta rather than a debate about press freedom; like Mosley’s on a mission to bring the Murdoch empire down, even if it means haunting it out of Fleet Street.
After watching the film, Bernie Ecclestone said: “I am so happy that I never had to sue Max, as he is not the person to take on”. It is clear Mosley had the wit, power, money and the grit to take on any opponent – and he did.
Ecclestone is interviewed in the film, alongside other motorsport figures including, Flavio Briatore, Jean Todt and Gerhard Berger. This is where the documentary is most insightful, particularly for Formula 1 fans.
The film chronicles how together Ecclestone and Mosley turned motor-racing into the most lucrative sport in the world. It covers pivotal moments such as the deaths in racing accidents of Jim Clark, Roger Williamson and Ayrton Senna, as well as the 2005 Indianapolis tyre debacle and the McLaren ‘Spygate’ drama.
While controversy is never far away, Mosley is unanimously praised for his part, as President of the FIA (1993-2009), in overseeing research into car safety. This had far-reaching impacts both on and off the track, with laboratory crash tests feeding into safety improvements for domestic vehicles.
Car safety was clearly more than a part of the job for Mosley – it was a passion. Here we see him, even after leaving the FIA, overseeing the first car safety tests in India, which records the highest number of road deaths in the world. This is the legacy he wants to be remembered for. And while Mosley can’t control that completely, Shevloff’s film puts him back in the driving seat.
Mosley: It’s Complicated will be in UK Cinemas from 9 July and will be on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from 19 July 2021.