Days of Thunder
There is an old saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. Usually, this infers that success is fleeting and unlikely to happen again. Apparently the executives who work in most major movie studios have either never heard this saying or just choose to ignore it. When a film is a box office success it is not unusual for the studio too rush to replicate the formula. Typically this means get the same star in a flick with almost the same plot and situations. In 1986 Tom Cruise hit it big with his fast-paced action movie ‘Top Gun’. It took four years but in 1990 the studio tried to repeat this with ‘Days of Thunder’. They not only got Cruise to sign on but they brought the director of ‘Top Gun’, Tony Scott along as well. Where ‘Top Gun’ took to the skies for high speed action this movie was more ground substituting car racing. Most of the times when the studios take this approach the results are dismal. Fortunately the talent involved here on both sides of the camera manages to pull it off and provide a completely entertaining movie. While admittedly not as good as ‘Top Gun’ it holds together as a solid flick on its own. Sure, the plots and many sequences are directly from the first movie but there is enough of a new slant that it can be forgiven; at least in this particular case. Guys will love the car racing and their wives and girlfriends will watch for Cruise and the romantic elements of the movie. This is a great flick for a movie night at home. Cruise is just so likeable in roles like this that you can forget that the film is basically a remake of ‘Top Gun’. He is an A-List star for good reason; the man can bring in a performance. The film has been out on DVD for several years now but many studios including Paramount has been going back through their catalog and re-releasing popular films on Blu-ray. With a film like this filled with action it is far better in this high definition video and audio than ever before.
The story provided by Cruise and Robert Towne with Towne taking on the responsibilities of the actual screenplay. It usually doesn’t bode well when a new A-List star tries to come up with a story, but under the guidance of the more experienced Towne, this one is better than you might think. Towne has some exceptional experience is producing scripts. Among his credits are ‘Chinatown,’ ‘The Two Jakes’ and ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ He also wrote one of my favorite episodes of the old ‘Outer Limits,’ ‘The Chameleon.’ His experience goes a long way to make this movie rise above the usual remake nonsense and gives it legs to stand on. There are some notable similarities between a man who your strive to be a top gun Navy fighter pilot and one who would take on the arduous career as a professional race car driver. They both feel that ‘need for speed’ and are addicted to the adrenaline that both endeavors produce in copious quantities. Naturally, a man like this enjoys the company of young women. The romance part of the story comes in with one of the most classic themes in that genre; taming the bad boy. Cruise did wind up with some real-life romance during the shooting of this movie when he met his second wife, Nicole Kidman. This combination blasts testosterone with a softer heart, perfect winning combination.
Once again taking on the direction is Tony Scott. Not only did he bring an action to the screen with ‘Top Gun’ but he also helmed such taut thrillers as ‘Crimson Tide,’ ‘Enemy of the State’ and ‘True Romance.’ He also showed his flair for comedy with ‘Beverly Hills Cop II.’ It may seem like it is easy to direct action but it takes a special talent to balance keeping the cast safe while making the results look even more dangerous than they are for the audience. Scott has this down to a science. It must run in the family since his brother Ridley is also famous for some of the best movies around. Here one of the difficulties that Scott overcame was making cars going around in a circle seem exciting. I know there are millions of NASCAR fans out there that would disagree, but there are some techniques that must be mastered to achieve that effect. It is all in the camera angles and the editing. A wide shot of the cars moving around would soon become dull. There is no reference to show the audience just how fast they are going. By cutting to shots where the cars zoom past a stationary object or careen into each other; not that is exciting. Next time you watch a car race on TV notice that many of the same techniques used there were employed in this film. Scott brings the story through the stages of the classic hero as defined by famed mythological historian Joseph Campbell. The hero has to learn his skills, embark on a difficult journey and have his skills tested by a worthy opponent. Some true fans of the sport will object to some of the maneuvers used and the impossibly high banked turns but remember this is just a movie and there is some dramatic license taken.
In the world of auto racing, Cole Trickle (Cruise) is a talented rookie. He has the basic skills necessary to make him great but lacks the polish and strategy necessary to work his way to the top. His mentor and chief mechanic Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) has been around the circuit for most of his life. Cole wants the fame and riches that come with being a winner, but for Harry, there is much more to it. He has a Zen-like approach to the sport, the professionalism that pervades everything he does. You need an unlike source for romance which appears in the form of a young brain surgeon Dr. Claire Lewicki (Kidman). She begins to fall for Cole but needs to tame his wild ways first. Now we get the initial foe to stand in Cole’s rise to the top; Russ Wheeler (Cary Elwes). He is also a rookie but is willing to push things past the point of the normal dangers inherent in the sport. Cole begins to get involved with a legend of the sports Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker). Cole uses his car to beat a record once set by Rowdy. Soon, they are squaring off against one another.
You haven’t seen this film until you get in on Blu-ray. The 1080p video provides a level of clarity that is amazing. You will be using this disc to show off your new system and get your friends jealous. Then there is the lossless DTS HD audio will rock your house. You can practically feel the wind rushing by as the cars race. Even if you have a DVD release of this, it is worth getting again in this format.
Posted 12/13/08 Posted 07/30/2018