There is speed, thrills, tension and all the adrenalin that goes with it, but Ron Howard’s winning film is not just about Formula One racing. Beyond the screeching tyres, engine roar and deafening rumble is high octane courage and determination. Above all, this is the real life rivalry and unique relationship between Austria’s Niki Lauda and Britain’s James Hunt. You don’t have to know anything about racing or be a Formula One fan to experience the whole gamut of emotions in this powerful and highly moving film, whose two champion central performances by Daniel Brühl and Chris Hemsworth appropriately mirror the champions they represent.
Howard perfectly captures the essence of the sport complete with the ambience of the lifestyle and the competitive nature of the participants. As we are sucked into its reality, we meet Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), two total opposites, who are both passionate and avid participants in the racing roulette wheel, where the stakes are life and death. Rebel, lunatic, dreamer and desperate to make a mark are some of the ways that Lauda describes the mindset of a racing driver who lives each day as if it were his last.
Through Peter Morgan’s beautifully constructed screenplay and the leapfrogging that he orchestrates, we get to know both Lauda and Hunt and are there when they meet for the first time at a Formula 3 event. The rivalry is immediate. It is easy to be charmed by the handsome, charming Hemsworth as Hunt, who races with daredevil intensity that matches his off the circuit playboy lifestyle replete with sex, booze and drugs. Hemsworth is more handsome than any man deserves to be and he effuses charm. By contrast, Brühl’s portrayal of Lauda, who has no skills whatsoever when it comes to social interaction, is beautifully paced. Brühl captures the disdain and arrogant aggression of the Austrian, who has an instinctive sense when it comes to the weight and aerodynamics of his car, but cannot help his rude abruptness and does not care what anyone thinks of him.
This is a giant of a film filled with everything: drama, humour, tension, romance and a rivalry that soars into something arguably more powerful and beautiful than one based on friendship could ever be.
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde
Awards: Two Golden Globes, four other wins, twenty-eight nominations
Ron Howard | USA | 2013 | 123 mins | 15
Weighted vote 92.4%