Twitter Plot Summary: The 70s, when hair was big and F1 racing was rather dangerous. Step up rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
Director: Ron Howard
Key Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino, Stephen Mangan, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Christian McKay.
Five Point Summary:
1. Starting off in Formula 3. And for a second it looked like we were jumping in at the deep end.
2. So that’s the characters set up nicely – Hunt a playboy, Lauda a perfectionist.
3. Fireball! DRAMA!
4. That last race in Japan looks fantastic, very cinematic.
5. Is that Niki Lauda himself? I think so.
The best rivalries are born from two people who have the same goals but a completely opposite approach to reaching them. One such rivalry existed in motor racing between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, beginning in Formula 3 and escalating when they both reached Formula 1. Hunt (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) is a party man who also happens to be very good at motor racing. When he can focus on this, of course – partying, smoking and sleeping with lots of women does have the potential to distract from his racing ambitions. Niki Lauda (Inglourious Basterd’s Daniel Bruhl) on the other hand, nicknamed “the rat” because… well, because he looks a bit like a rat… is focused and determined to succeed by any means necessary, but only within the strict boundaries he sets himself. He understands that there’s a 20% risk of him dying every time he races, but he’s accepting of that. James Hunt by comparison is reckless, but then this is what made him an excellent race driver.
The theme of marriage and having something to lose runs throughout the narrative. Hunt is well loved by everybody yet his marriage is doomed to fail (the perils of being a playboy racer), whereas Lauda is, shall we say, less than popular with everybody he meets, yet he maintains a successful marriage despite that – unfortunately we don’t get much of an insight into this world beyond seeing that his wife understands why he does what he does. Likewise, Olivia Wilde has a glorified cameo as the wife of James Hunt, seems a bit of a waste in hindsight. Both men are driven, no pun intended, to be the best they can be in motor racing, which naturally threads through the story and enhances their rivalry. I won’t go into any detail regarding the story specifics as it would potentially spoil the film and, in all honesty, those details are available elsewhere online if you really want to know the ins and outs. Race fans certainly will no doubt have knowledge of the facts.
The racing itself doesn’t overshadow the drama being played out off the track, yet it’s still very nicely shot and is full of tension despite the fact hardcore F1 fans will know the outcome of each race. The final showdown in Japan, in the rain, looks stunning and it’s understandable why shots from this part of the film were used for the trailers. On that note – the trailers don’t give absolutely everything away, and different takes for the trailer were used in places to subvert your expectations when going into the film, so that’s a bonus.
Ron Howard is an accomplished director, but I’m not usually a huge fan of his style. More often than not it feels very matter of fact and without nuance or depth, which can occasionally be detrimental to the film. It’s often like we’re receiving a very basic, no frills version of the script, and it’s no different here, to an extent. That’s fine though, there’s too much information and story between these two characters to put in every little detail, so it’s better to tell the story you want to tell and leave it at that. It would also be remiss of me to not mention the score from Hans Zimmer, which is as emotive and powerful as what you would expect. So much so that I’m planning on buying the soundtrack shortly, it’s an excellent score that complements the film wonderfully. The cinematography as well is sublime, so a massive thumbs up to Anthony Dod Mantle for his work. Mantle has also been responsible for a few of Danny Boyle’s films (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trance) as well as last year’s Dredd, so I’m more familiar with his work than I realised.
There was a concern going in that too much emphasis would be placed on the racing, that it would be a shallow F1 film with little characterisation or depth. This turned out not to be the case, and the drama in the personal and professional lives of Lauda and Hunt are given enough room to breathe without going into excessive detail. If any complaints are to be pointed at the film is that it doesn’t go into as much depth about the world of F1 as it could have, nor does it make any significant comment on the risks involved with driving at high speeds around a race track, and maybe it could have explored more of the characters lives outside of F1, as this aspect of the story does get short shrift. With that said, if any more depth had been given to these areas, the movie would have been four hours long, or more – there’s a lot of potential narrative available. Better for it to focus on the main purpose of the story – the yin/yang of Lauda and Hunt, rather than get bogged down in all of the minutiae. Suffice to say, even with me not being a huge racing fan, it’s a fantastic movie and is accessible to all audiences, whether you’re a fan of the sport or not.
Favourite scene: Lauda recuperating in hospital. Gruelling, but an indication of his desire to get back in the car.
Quote: (I think I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember it verbatim from the showing) “Men love women, but they love cars more.”
Silly Moment: The rich English chap who gives Hunt his first break in F1. I find it hard to take anyone seriously who speaks like that.