Cars have long been synonymous with women. In fact when Steve Taylor from Coupling goes on his infamous Inferno rant, he names the four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche - naked women, stockings, lesbians and Sean Connery best as James Bond. It is a pity there is no space for cars in there. In a generalized world, cars will probably replace stockings. It may be old fashioned and possibly obsolete an idea but the flexing of the male ego and the illusion of control is objectified with cars. The point is how well Ron Howard uses these seemingly obvious and unimaginative trope with amazing results.
His first explicit use is when the initial stages of the 1976 F1 season is underway and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is well ahead of James Hunt who’s had a disastrous start. It is worse for Hunt because he discovers his wife’s relationship with Richard Burton and there is a scene soon after their separation (Chris Hemsworth is surprisingly wonderful in playing the living-it-up driver who is always on the edge - of his life and his mind) when Hunt joins the mile high club with a flight attendant. Howard interlaces these scenes with Hunt’s season soon after, all pistons blazing when he registers podium finishes and gains on Lauda in the drivers’ championships.
This is how Ron Howard chooses to show the lives and rivalry of two storied F1 champions - through their respective philosophies of life and how they live it. Hunt lives dangerously both on track and off it. Lauda is more cautious, always choosing consistency and efficiency over speed. When Hunt meets Suzy whom he marries soon after, she seems to already know him, his character and his reputation. When Marlene and Niki Lauda meet, she is just giving a lift to the guy who wants to leave the party early. It takes two guys who help the stranded couple to tell her she is with the Ferrari F1 driver.
If you are an F1 fan this is a great retelling of the rivalry between two champions and more importantly, two great characters. If you are not, enjoy the thrill ride because like an F1 race, there is never a dull moment. Watch it in the theatres and preferably in one that has seat belts.