Some may question the appeal of car racing. Boil it down to its simplest form and one could say it’s merely drivers running their vehicles around a track – often an oval track at that. But when you take racing so simply you’re missing out on the thrill of power, the skill of endurance and the technical precision required to manoeuvre between two competing cars while going at speeds measured in the hundreds of miles per hour.
In Days of Thunder, director Tony Scott manages to capture both views of racing. When it’s on the racetrack, its thrills abound as the big sound and fast-moving cars make for sensory overload. However, when the action fades and it’s time to give the characters some meat, there’s not much there and a sense of the mundane sets in.
Tom Cruise stars as Cole Trickle, a hotshot rookie on the NASCAR circuit. Raw and aggressive, he starts his professional racing career crashing into walls, running his car into the ground and almost getting himself fired before his first victory. Trickle’s cocky know-it-all attitude rubs his pit chief Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) the wrong way. Working apart from each other, it’s failure every time. But as one might expect, things turn for the better when they start working together.
The first half of Days of Thunder builds Trickle from rookie to racing superstar. But just as he’s about to reach the top, an accident sends him back to start and he’s got make a comeback.
For the most part, Days of Thunder is predictable and plays it safe too often. But at the same time, like most of Scott’s films, when it comes to action he knows how to make it intense on the senses. He plays the race scenes tight and loud, cutting quickly from car to car. In these scenes, Scott does a great job at telling the stories of the races and how they build on the narrative.
But after the checkered flag is waved and it’s into the world outside the track, the film becomes somewhat stagnant. There’s not a lot of character development for Trickle other than his going from cocky rookie to star to comeback underdog. It’s a common story where little originality is added. The most interesting character is Hogge but he’s not in it very much. I wonder what they film would have been like told from his perspective instead of Trickle’s, where the action is in the pit instead of on the track?
Days of Thunder has its exhilarating moments, but it also has its downtime. And in that downtime there’s a mix of the mundane, the ridiculous and an overly dramatic soundtrack. When it’s on the track, Days of Thunder is awesome. Unfortunately it’s not on the track from start to finish.
Days of Thunder Blu-ray Review
If you’re a fan of Days of Thunder, if you haven’t bought the DVD you’ve probably at least seen it in the store. It’s not a fancy release and neither is the Blu-ray. In fact, this is a very disappointing release. The picture may be presented in 1080p high definition, but there’s still tons of scratches and debris and the stock is extremely grainy. The audio fares better with an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Dubbed tracks are also offered in 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish and French. All three languages, along with Portuguese, are represented with subtitles. The only bonus feature, if you want to consider it one, is a theatrical trailer done in high definition.