“Complicated” feels like an understatement when describing Max Mosley. Growing up as the son of the fascist politician Oswald Mosley, he was used to being pilloried – and in his adult life relished being under attack. So, when the News of the World came after him in 2008 with a front-page exposé of his “depraved Nazi orgy” with prostitutes, Mosley did not slink away in shame. He sued.
The trouble with the unprobing approach in this film is that it never really pushes Mosley – interviewed before his death this year – or gets under his skin in ways that could be interesting. The result is that the film feels more like an authorised biography than a documentary, and for that reason it’s a little dull. There is also an awful lot of Formula One filler to put up with.
Born in 1940, Mosley was the youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford, one of the celebrated Mitford sisters. His parents were married in Goebbels’ drawing room, with Hitler as a guest. In the early 1960s, Max was involved in his father’s postwar political movement; he says he fell under the spell of his famously charismatic dad before losing interest. Frustratingly, he is not challenged here on his political beliefs as a young man. After a brief career as barrister, he joined motor sport, rising to become president of FIA, Formula One’s governing body, and the film goes to great lengths chronicling the feuds and backroom power struggles in the sport.
Mosley says he would have pursued a career in politics were it not for his surname. In the early 80s he attempted to become a Conservative MP and later donated to Labour. He had a ruthless streak and guts of iron that would have been suited for the job. He was also clearly a man who got things done; there’s a lot in the film on his commendable work promoting road safety. His run-ins with Rupert Murdoch’s empire and the Daily Mail seemed to have been a great passion of his later years; the irony being, of course, that the Daily Mail supported Mosley Sr’s blackshirts in the 30s. Hugh Grant, in his role as a Hacked Off campaigner, comments: “I’m very glad he’s my friend and not enemy.”