Formula One racing. Believe it or not, it’s more dangerous and less boring that NASCAR. I’ve been to NASCAR (heck I’m from the home region of the Pettys) — it’s hot, the cars go round and round endlessly. Some fans hardly pay attention unless there’s a dramatic wreck. Speaking of which people tend to get wrecked in the in-field— Its much more fun to watch Talledega Nights in the comfort of your own home.
This Ron Howard movie (2 hours and 5 minutes– R rated for some nakedness I suppose, or some violent crashes) however has some interesting features to it. For one thing, you get to see Thor in a race car. It was not high on my bucket list, but there you have it. Chris Hemsworth does an adequate job of playing a playboy formula one racer (perhaps somewhat modeled on folks like Ayrton Senna). Far better acting is offered up by Daniel Bruhl who plays the rival of ‘James Hunt’s'(i.e. Hemsworth’s character). Basically the story revolves around the 1976 formula one season, ending in rainy Japan in the shadow of Mt. Fuji.
At least in formula one the scenery can be interesting, especially in places like Monaco, and at least in formula one, one doesn’t tend to just go around in circles. Despite a lot of hype, the movie really isn’t that gripping. Yes there are a few good racing scenes with good camera work. Yes the rivalry between the two principles is plausible, but some of the races are not. It is sheer stupidity to drive in the driving rain at 150 plus miles an hour on a windy course, no matter how good the driver, car and tires. As is mentioned in the film, in the 70s they were having about 2 fatalities a year. Oddly enough, the last fatality in formula one was Aryton Senna in 1994.
The most interesting part of the movie is Nikki Lauda– he is smart, very sure of himself, not handsome, and excellent in setting up good race cars. Winning for him is everything, and we are treated to his remarkable comeback from injury as part of the storyline. But then, if he hadn’t been driving too fast in the rain, there wouldn’t have been a need for a comeback. Heroic stupidity, or brave narcissistic behavior doesn’t deserve to be applauded.
So what is this movie really about, besides racing? For one thing, its about the need for speed… and the thrill that comes with it. For another thing is about playing chicken with death, and oddly, morbidly, lots of people seem to find that not merely interesting but sexy. And thirdly, its about winning at all, or almost all, costs. In all three senses, this is a truly American film and the story line is well put together.
Still…. I’d suggest watching Talledega Nights instead, and having a good laugh.
With this movie, if you end up laughing its because of the sheer foolishness involved in such racing. This is not about real bravery like when a soldier protects some innocent civilian. Its about bravura, and about high octane testosterone, of which there is far too much in supply in such male dominated competitions.