The Man and I were out with our shopping list at a mega shopping mall on Sunday and we walked by giant movie posters. That was when I racked my brain and realised I could not remember the last movie I watched.
I am an occasional movie goer, only catching movies I have great interest in. And I always knew something about the movie, be it the famous cast or synopsis or sometimes the director / producer I have heard of. I casually commented that I had not watched any movie lately, because there was none that I noticed.
The Man heard my comment, apparently. I was staring intently at 2 boxes of multi-vitamins for the kids at the pharmacy, comparing vitamin by vitamin and trying to make sense of the names and numbers when the Man walked up beside me and interrupted my staring contest with the boxes.
“2 movies, you choose. Rush or Gravity?”
I looked up at the Man. Things started to happen in slow motion inside my head. Whah… 120mg… R..U..S..H… or 100mg… G..R..A..V..I..T..Y…
Sad to say, I have never heard of either movie. “Huh?” was all I could manage.
“Which show do you choose, Rush or Gravity? The Man repeated. “Rush is about car racing, Gravity is starring Sandra Bullock and I don’t know who else. Quick, both shows start in about 2 hours’ time. If confirmed, I’ll go buy tickets now.”
That was all the information I had about how we were going to spend 2 hours of the day. Pressed for time and a decision, my gut spoke. “Rush”.
“Okay.” the Man said and disappeared from my side, just like that. I stared after his retreating back for 2 seconds before heaving a sigh of relief. Back to the 2 almost forgotten bottles of vitamins in my hands.
So that was how I ended up in the cinema seats 2 hours later, unsure of even the theatre to go to. This must be the first time I was watching a movie knowing only the title, that it was about car racing and rated M-18 on the ticket stub. I had no expectations of the movie at all, except that it might be about modern or even futuristic car racing with neon lights and fast machines.
I couldn’t be more wrong. (Some Spoilers Alert)
The movie turned out to be based on the true story of 2 Formula One champions in the 1970s, their vastly different yet passionate views on life and car racing.
I spent a good part of the movie thinking that the guy who played James Hunt looked so much like the guy who starred as Thor (yes, I was THAT out of touch with the entertainment world). When I tried to ask the Man, I had an equally out-of-touch answer. “It’s either him or his brother.” What? The Thor guy even has a brother who looks like him? I should just shut up and watch the show then, since I knew nuts about the cast.
But wait, the guy who played Niki Lauda in the movie. He looked like he starred in the Hobbit, right? “I don’t know.” This was the Man’s cue to shut up. (A quick check on Google after the movie confirmed I was right about Chris Hemsworth and wrong about Daniel Brühl.)
Other than the duh moments trying to figure the cast, I totally enjoyed the movie. I could feel the internal struggles of James Hunt and Niki Lauda as they fought their way from the lower divisions to finally race on the F1 scene. Hunt and Lauda could not have been more different – Hunt, the over-smoked, over-sexed, over-drank, each-race-could-be-my-last bad-boy with tremendous guts and driving skills. Lauda, the equally skilled driver who also knew how to make a great race car greater, took calculated risks before each race, and led a principled, good-boy life. Hunt was a charmer – everyone liked having him around. Lauda was anti-social. They were bitter rivals and hated each other’s guts.
It was painful to watch at times, as F1 racing was extremely dangerous in that era. 2 drivers would die by the end of each season, many more injured. As the rivals battled and raced each other through the flashback of 6 years, there were scenes of drivers getting seriously injured. As the ambulance with the injured competitor snailed by the drivers getting ready to start their races, it was heartwrenching to see all the drivers had the same thought on their faces – OMG. I could be the next. I could die.
Yet the next scene showed the drivers get into their cars and off they went, as if nothing happened. Such was the intense passion for the sport that was protrayed so cleverly in the movie. I loved that.
The races were nail-bitingly exciting. My heart was in my throat many times, and because I knew nothing about the show nor the ending, I kept hoping that the drivers would survive each race, and please, don’t let anything bad happen to them.
At the German Grand Prix in 1976, Niki Lauda appealed for all the drivers to call off the race, for weather conditions were extremely poor and he felt that the risks were too great. Being in the lead of the title chase and because of his unpopularity, Lauda lost the appeal. The race went as scheduled, and Lauda got involved in a horrible crash which left his face severely burnt and his lungs damaged. As he laid in the hospital and watched Hunt win one race after another and catching up on his scores, Lauda fought to get well as fast as possible, enduring excruciating procedures to have his lungs cleared (they inserted metal tubes into his lungs to draw out the accumulated fluids) and skin grafts on his face.
By this time, Lauda had married, and his wife stayed by his side all the while as he struggled to get well, never discouraging him. The pain in her eyes everytime she watched his struggles made me tear up. Lauda was not the only strong-willed one around.
Lauda became well enough to rejoin the races for the rest of the season, and he struggled to regain his lead in the title chase. At the last and title deciding race of the season in Japan, weather conditions were again terrible for racing, but all drivers went ahead to compete in it. As Lauda went round after round on the circuit, an image of his wife in anguish when he first regained consciousness in the hospital flashed through his mind. He finally realised what was truly important to him in life, and he decided to withdraw from the race. Hunt went on to become champion, but Lauda had no regrets. He won 2 more F1 titles in the following years.
I had not been deeply touched by a movie in a long time, and I think this is a great movie not to be missed. Brilliant producer, and great cast.