Privileged, charismatic and handsome English playboy, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) could not be more different from his reserved and methodical opponent, Austrian born Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Their rivalry begins in Formula 3. Here they compete viciously against each other until Lauda's superior business acumen and surgeon like precision behind the wheel propels him all the way to Formula 1; eventually landing him the number one spot at Ferrari. However it's not long before unruly golden boy James Hunt fights his way into Formula 1, and into the hearts of a nation, dramatically seizing the world championship from Lauda and proving to the critics, and more importantly himself, that there is real substance beneath his stylish exterior. Polar opposites pitted against each other in the most dangerous sport in the world, Hunt and Lauda are pushed to the breaking point of their physical and psychological endurance.
Review by Louise Keller:
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. And above all, is the real life rivalry and unique relationship between Austria's Niki Lauda and Britain's James Hunt. The film is one big adrenalin rush and the emotional wallop it delivers is its biggest surprise. 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. 'A bomb on wheels,' is how he describes his racing car: 'A little coffin surrounded by octane fuel.' Hemsworth is more handsome than any man deserves to be and he effuses charm. Olivia Wilde is suitably cast as Hunt's model-wife Suzy, whose destiny becomes eventually linked with that of Richard Burton.
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 a damn what anyone things of him. The scene in which Lauda meets his future wife Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) is a revelation in that for the first time, we warm to him. There is an exhilarating joy ride in Italy in surprising circumstances. 'Happiness is the enemy,' Lauda tells Marlene on their honeymoon, explaining that doubt creeps in, where there is something to lose.
The racing sequences are shot in brilliant fashion and they are breathtakingly thrilling. We are in the cars, feet on the throttle, hands on the wheel, flying along the racing circuit. We in the pit, in the stand and at the finish line when the checkered flag comes down - often at unexpected angles. Tension reaches its peak during the 1976 Nurburgring circuit in Germany, known as 'The Green Hell', when the dangerous wet conditions create havoc and dire consequences. I will not say too much about what follows, but the tensions are at screaming point during the final race of the season in Japan, when the stakes could not be higher. The World Champion will be determined but there is much more at stake. The hazardous conditions, teeming rain and zilch visibility make the race more dangerous and ominous than could be imagined. Howard takes us into Lauda and Hunt's minds as the images they each visualise determine their fate.
This is a giant of a film filled with spectacle and excitement. The human element and the way the competitive nature of the relationship between the two men prompts them to achieve higher goals is one that forms an indelible bond between them. It's a film 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. One of the best films of the year.
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CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino, David Calder, Natalie Dormer, Stephen Mangan, Christian McKay, Alistair Petrie, Augusto Dallara
PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Peter Morgan, Brian Oliver
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SCRIPT: Peter Morgan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony Dod Mantle
EDITOR: Daniel P. Hanley,Mike Hill
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Digby
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 3, 2013
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