NOTE: Spoilers are behind the spoiler tag, unless you’re reading this in an RSS feed (sorry).
Two major characters: James Hunt, a pretty boy living the clichéd “immortal fuck” rich cad life, and Niki Lauda, a serious man all about calculations and risk assessment, but with an equal-to-Hunt’s will to win. One is popular, the other an outsider.
It’s difficult to critique the plot, considering it’s based on real events. Niki tries to vote for cancelling the German Grand Prix in 1976 due to an already unsafe track, which could worsen with rain. But he’s voted down, and the race goes ahead – with consequences.
What happens next is when Daniel Brühl really gets to display his acting chops. The agony Niki must’ve been in when his bandages were peeled off, and the harrowing lung-vacuuming… I was basically in tears from the lead-up to the German GP until the film’s conclusion. Even though I knew all the spoilers/history, I still cried heaps.
Six weeks later, permanently disfigured from the fiery crash, Niki returns in time for the Italian Grand Prix. Though he wasn’t well liked before, his return is respected and admired by all. He finishes fourth in the race, a heart-warming moment. (Yes, my cold, dead heart occasionally warms. Shh.)
After a journalist asks Niki a particularly rude and disrespectful line of questioning during a press conference, James beats up the journo. At the time I saw it as him defending the honour of a fellow driver, but now I’m wondering if it was because of James’s troubles with the missus. I choose to believe the former, though the latter may be more likely.
The true test of Niki’s character comes during the Japanese Grand Prix. The pain, in addition to the heavy rain, pushes him past his risk assessment, and he retires from the race. Nothing wrong with the car, but he knows his limits and can go no further. It’s a dignified move, one I really respect. It costs him the championship, but Niki doesn’t seem bitter about it. He knows he made the right decision for himself.
The final scene in the hangar is a nice one. The men acknowledge that having an enemy inspires each to do better. So though they don’t like each other, they need each other, and overall respect each other. It’s a nice truce, and the closest the film comes to bromance. (Yes, I love bromance. Shh.)
Initially, I didn’t understand why Niki’s narration frames the film, but at the end it becomes clear: he tells of what eventuates over the years. It’s an epilogue of sorts.
(P. S. What’s with all the boobs? Some under-18s tried to buy tickets, but were rejected and instead had to choose another film. The boobs didn’t seem necessary – the sex scenes could’ve still been shown with bras, which would’ve knocked down the age-classification.)