Friday, October 11th, 2013


Close on the heels of ‘Senna’ one of the hot docs of 2012 that told of the bitter rivalry between the charismatic Brazilian 3-time World Champion Formula One Driver Ayrton Senna and  the French 4-time Champion Alain Proust comes this stunning narrative of a very similar battle royal two decades earlier.  In this instance, in one corner tall blond womanising ex-Public schoolboy too-handsome-for-his-own good British James Hunt and in the other the dour intensely overly-serious Austrian Nikki Lauda without a hint of sense of humor or any joie de vivre.
In this true real-life story both men had grown up in wealthy upper-class families whom both resisted when their sons announced their ambitions to become professional racing drivers. This stopped neither of them, and Hunt sweet-talked the English Aristocrat Lord Hesketh to be part of the Racing Team that the Peer was funding whereas the disinherited Lauda got himself a Bank Loan and bought his way into a Formula One team.

The nerdy Lauda slowly and diligently impressed his new team-mates with his fixation with the most minute details to improve both the car and his performance, whereas Hunt went out of his way to be a showy risk-taker on the track which made him the crowd’s favorite driver. They were the very best drivers in Formula One that year and Lauda started winning races by his careful planning, whereas Hunt won his by taking dangerous manoeuvres and risky chances. 

Even off the track they led totally different lives. Hunt the playboy married Suzy Parker the most famous model of the day, whilst Lauda proposes to Marlene his long suffering girlfriend reluctantly with  ‘if I’m going to do it with someone, it might as well be you’.  

In 1975 Lauda now driving for the Ferrari team won his first World Championship beating Hunt who was still driving his much inferior Hesketh car.  In the next year Hunt signed on to the Maclaren team which gave him a car to match Lauda’s and the fierce rivalry between the two drivers became almost deadly. In a plot that seems like it could only have been written for a movie, Lauda has a near-fatal crash and is almost burned to death, but less than two months later is back in his car for the final race of the Season that will determine the Championship between the two men.

Oscar winning director Ron Howard (‘A Beautiful Mind’) working from a script by Oscar nominated writer Peter Morgan (‘The Queen’ , ‘Frost & Nixon’) gives us the most thrilling motor racing movie that I have ever seen. The fact that it is melded with this very intense human drama, makes it so much more than just another fast action piece. These two highly charged men couldn’t have been anymore different from each other.  Lauda may have been the one with the relentless determination to beat his rival at all costs, but Hunt also desperately wanted to be the winner that he would dangerously push both their boundaries to achieve it.

The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, another Oscar Winner (‘Slumdog Millionaire’) is nothing less than stunning, particularly of the creative way he filmed all the racing, although I could have done with a little less of the equally harrowing scenes of the up-close bloody gore when Lauda’s face is being reformed under the surgeons knife.

Australian devilishly handsome Chris Hemsworth so
perfectly captured the James Hunt  I recall from the time, but Hunt never ever had that pumped up torso that Hemsworth is happy to reveal completely in one of his many bedtime romps. Both he, and the German/Spanish actor Daniel Bruhl as Lauda, gave what could possibly be career defining performances that should earn them some best acting nominations. 

I guess that most sporting championships succeed because of the passionate antagonistic clash of the two main players, but whether they are quite as lopsided or partisan as this one is questionable. At the same time that Hunt was portrayed as such a lovable irresistible bad-boy that every one wanted to succeed then the intensely boring Lauda was painted with his heavy Germanic accent as the one that no-one wanted to win.  If director Howard had been English, I would have accused him of letting our customary British teutonophobia creep through.

One of the few Hollywood blockbusters I have been tempted to see this year, and I am so pleased that I did as it is excellent.

P.S. If I had one ‘but’ to add, it would be for the ridiculous hair pieces all the men wore.  I know this was the 1970’s but we cannot all have looked that bad.  Could we?


Posted by queerguru  at  00:42


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