Monday, 30 September 2013


Whilst the context for this story is Grand Prix racing, this is essentially a story about two very different men. You don't have to be a Formula 1 fan to enjoy this movie. Whereas Senna was a docudrama, this is more a dramadocu if that makes sense. Director Ron Howard employs creative licence at key points. Each frame of the film is imbued with raw emotion that draws you in and engages you. The film explores the rivalry between Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Brühl) as they make the leap from Formula 3 to Formula 1 in the mid 70's.

I was in my late teens when this was for real and I remember many of the highlights of the story - including Lauda's terrible crash and too many others around that time. Ron Howard has faithfully recreated the 1970's feel with its unregulated pit lane and the wheel-to-wheel jousting. The story captures the insecurity that lies beneath Hunt's playboy bravado and Lauda's detached, almost clinically forensic approach to not only building racing cars but also relationships.

This is a film about drivenness as both the main characters were driven - but by very different motivators. Hunt squandered the privileged start to life his father's wealth and position had secured - if you ever need a visual representation of the Prodigal Son, without the repentance, this is it! The film dramatically depicts Hunt's lust for life and sexual encounter - near the beginning he walks into a hospital ER and announces himself in 007 style as 'Hunt, James Hunt. Weren't you expecting me?' The story uses creative license to show that Hunt did have standards and a code of honour by which he lived - his treatment of a journalist who asked a cheap question at a press conference evidences that. The episode is believable. Although Hunt and Lauda continually spar like bickering teenagers, it becomes clear as the film develops that both hold the other in the highest regard. There are also moments of comedy that involve both characters.

Lauda too had a privileged upbringing and was offered the chance to take over the family business and become wealthy. He renounces his father's offer and sets off to take out a loan and buy his way into Formula 1. Each driver was totally assured of their own ability and saw the crown of World Champion as being rightly theirs. Lauda's attention to engineering detail to enable his car to perform better is contrasted with Hunt's gladiatorial approach where it's all down to the chase for the top place on the podium. One man thought, the other felt - but that is too simplistic as both are portrayed as complex characters who both felt and thought.

Lauda's 'proposal' to Marlene (Alexandra Marie Lara) is more honest and down-to-earth than Hunt's proposal to Suzy (Olivia Wilde) but whereas one underwhelms but delivers, the other flatters to deceive and it all ends in tears. The scenes of Lauda being treated for his injuries and the pain which he actually, and Marlene vicariously, experienced are both graphic and gripping. By painfully forcing his helmet over his healing wounds Lauda built up the resilience and motivation to return to racing just six weeks after his horrific accident.

The cinematography is at times highly inventive - cameras inside driver's helmets. The soundtrack is pounding out the beat in a way that sync's beautifully with the rhythm of the race track. Both lead actors deliver noteworthy performances as they enact a screenplay that is textured and multi-faceted - it tells a great story very well. At a touch over two hours it is well paced and never lags. The only thing I would be critical of are the CGI effects that at times looked too superimposed to be convincing.

This is a great film and one which should be enjoyed by all. The favourable reviews have got it right. Go and see it while it's on general release - truly a film that gives more on the big screen. I'll give it 8.5/10.

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