Following in the tyre marks of the excellent ‘Senna’ documentary released in 2010, this is a fictional dramatisation of the rivalry between drivers James Hunt (the British Austin Powers-esque playboy figure) and Niki Lauda (the cold and meticulous Austrian).
While the film does stop short of painting the characters as hero and villain, it certainly overestimates (or even invents) the bitterness and acrimony between them. The actors work well with what they’ve been given though, with Daniel Brühl in particular inhabiting his character fully and making an emotionally rigid man interesting and surprisingly likeable.
The film largely alternates between driver interactions and driving scenes, culminating in the infamous 1976 season. The driving sequences are actually quite impressive, with a mixture of real action, cgi, stylish close-ups and a powerful soundtrack. They do, however, leave the F1 fan with a feeling that you’re watching a film set rather than an actual race. Really this film isn’t aimed at racing fans, and the “in last week’s show” style voice-overs at each new circuit and Basil Exposition trackside reporters attest to this.
Some moments are very funny (thumbing a lift in Italy for example) and most of the supporting cast are very good too (and familiar to UK sitcom viewers). Alexandra Maria Lara plays a good, understated role as Lauda’s partner Marlene Knaus, but the film spends quite a long time on the story of Hunt’s wife Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) only for it to fizzle out. This may well be because Russell Crowe was due to play a key role in the plot strand but ended up not being in the film, for whatever reason.
So, it’s a film for anyone, rather than specifically F1 fans, which is good fun despite shoehorning in a narrative arc.
3 on 5
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara UK release: 13th September 2013