Director: Ron Howard (2013)
Roaring into the cinema is this amazing racing tale fuelled by testosterone, booze and occasionally petrol.
It charts James Hunt and Nikki Lauda’s rivalry as they race from Formula 3 to challenging for the F1 world title in 1976.
Both men have similar backgrounds of wealth and privilege – Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a champagne-quaffing show-off who sees racing as an extension of his social life. While Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is a yoghurt-eating Austrian who is arrogant, risk-averse and highly focused. He races because it offers huge financial rewards.
Each describes the other as assholes but only Lauda seems sufficiently self-aware to realise the term applies to both men equally.
The film creates great tension by focusing on the friction between the two men which is then released by the starter’s flag. The thrilling races are expertly staged, especially as they show how close stewards and spectators were to these ‘bombs on wheels’.
Among the parties, insults and weddings, Lauda suffers a near fatal crash that leaves him scarred yet defiantly he continues to race to the film’s gripping climax.
In this macho mechanical world the ladies fare badly; being married is seen as being incompatible with success and single women are disposable sex toys.
Sadly Hemsworth’s acting is hamstrung by the demands of maintaining an English accent and is at his best behind the wheel. Brühl is more convincing and the supporting cast are all excellent.
The film offers an great insight into the world of 1970s Formula 1. Smoking is allowed in the pit-lanes, rain is a common enemy and the drivers have to battle mechanical failure, financial disaster, personal demons, media interference and the politics of the racing authorities.
It’s a well-crafted story of competitive courage that’s told with humour and energy.