I think it was fascinating. I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire first third of it or so – because of the incredibly close and authentic capture of the classic cars, and seeing an era emerging in front of me almost literally from the books I’ve read about it and from my imagination where I tried to somehow get how it felt like.
As a race track freak, I only felt awkward seeing Cadwell Park and Brands Hatch instead of the likes of Watkins Glen, Interlagos, Fuji, Monza, etc. (Which are still more or less the same like they were in the 1970s, unlike Crystal Palace and the Ricard.) Although the old Monza main straight was created beautifully and there were shots of the old Kyalami I couldn’t decide if it was another track or real footage from the era.
Still, what got me hooked was the character-building process. I think – or I think what got to me the most about the movie – was how those drivers handled sheer fear. The fear of losing something, be it their own lives, or their dreams, or something precious they just got to hold on to. I feel the movie brought examples to all of these things.
For instance, Hunt had literally no strings attached. I mean he was a guy who lived life in the fast lane and did not bother feeling attached to things or people. When he was down, he was straightforward enough to tell her girlfriend she didn’t know him enough and couldn’t help him, even if this honesty brought about a crack in their relationship. He feared losing her of course, but accepted this as an outcome of him being straight with her. Likewise, in the misty rain of Fuji – Hunt lapped quicker than anyone else, significantly, because he accepted his life was at risk as an outcome of him doing what he loved – racing.
In stark contrast, Lauda was portrayed somewhat Hunt’s opposite (although he, Lauda, allegedly said he had ‘half of what James had, which is pretty good’): entirely without intense inter-personal experiences, or at least as someone who felt somewhat detached from people even when around them. So, perhaps subconsciously, he had a fear for what precious things he had – which became his wife. I think positive thoughts draw positive events and people and negatives draw negative ones, so in that sense the mechanical failure on his Ferrari at the Ring was not a surprise. When confronted with a same torrential wet race at Fuji, he withdrew – he gave up on what he loved doing for an attachment he had. Out of fear of losing his vision of being with her. A completely emotional move from a man we got to know as a ’20% chance’ guy – of course, he said it was 21% on that day and that’s why he stopped. But then why he raced at the Ring, where he also said it was higher than 20% and why the pictures of his wife shown while driving lap 1 at Fuji… I particularly liked the take the film crew took when Marlene looked at Niki after the latter climbed out of the car and it was crystal-clear, crisp, unlike the – I guess – decidedly blurred setting the movie was shot in to fit the 1970s feeling. It was almost as if she saw him in real or in his entirety for the very first time.
Of course I don’t know Lauda’s real motivation behind his withdrawal…
…but as for the movie, Hunt’s and Lauda’s entirely different choices they took when it came to the most intimate relationship one could have was also very very fascinating to me. I think it gave an immense depth to their characters, one that I see very rarely – that and Bruhl’s Lauda got Rush way past the 8.0 mark on IMDb for me.