Saturday, September 28, 2013
A cross between Cinderella Man and Secretariat but with Formula One race cars.
What you get is nothing terribly gripping nor visually arresting. But you do get an interesting examination of two dynamic real-life racers: James Hunt, a sexy playboy who does it for the glory, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) whose skills for car design and driving lead him to overcome all odds to do the thing he loves.
Frustratingly, the film is mostly montage and has a rushed (pun!) feel to it. There's no set-piece racing sequence to get engrossed in until the end, perhaps, and even then the focus pulls away from the drivers' point of view.
Ultimately, the film is a satisfying look at two very different characters who compete against each other so fiercely that they feel at a loss when a horrendous accident takes Lauda out of the action.
Still, the film is about these two drivers and their involvement in a life-threatening sport, but director Ron Howard never puts you in the driver's seat.
Hemsworth is well suited to the role of the long-haired playboy, and Brühl keeps your attention with his portrayal of the awkward, anti-social outsider whose veins are full of motor oil.
Olivia Wilde is quite good as Hunt's trophy wife. Wilde is developing into a solid actress, and she does well in Howard's many extreme close-ups of her face. What's the deal? Does Howard doubt her ability to emote?
It's just not a film full of memorable moments. It moves along smoothly from episode to episode, but there are no gripping or hugely dramatic moments. Even the big accident is too quickly staged to have much effect. Every scene is utilitarian.
The most arresting scene comes when Lauda, in the hospital, gets his scorched lungs vacuumed out.
An enjoyable character study, but nothing that cries out for a second viewing.