DAYS OF THUNDER reunites the producers, director and star of TOP GUN. Tom Cruise stars as Cole Trickle, an ambitious NASCAR race driver, who has no knowledge of cars and very few scruples.
Dreaming of winning the Daytona 500, auto dealer Tim Daland lures legendary crew chief Harry Hogge out of retirement to build a winning NASCAR race car. Daland hires Cole to drive although he has no NASCAR racing experience. However, watching Cole drive a couple of trial laps around the track convinces Harry to join the team.
The team enters the racing circuit with little success at first. Rowdy Burns, Cole’s main competition, takes advantage of Cole’s inexperience and bumps him all over the track, but with Harry’s coaching, Cole hones his skills and begins to win. The embodiment of competitive zeal and talent that believes blindly in itself, Cole revels in his ability to “control something that’s out of control.”
A horrendous crash, however, sends both men to the hospital, where they remain stubbornly competitive in spite of their concussions, even to the point of racing their wheelchairs. However, the crash also reveals the futility of blind trust in self, and at the hospital Cole reaches out for human affection and comfort to his doctor Claire, a young Australian lass whom he quickly seduces (It’s hard to believe that this young woman has ever been to medical school, or served her time as an intern. It’s harder to believe that the hospital where she works would let her off for extended periods of time to go chasing a NASCAR driver around the country). When Cole is eventually cleared by Claire to race again, he becomes timid in his racing, so Daland fires him.
Rowdy, meanwhile, will never be able to race again, so he asks Cole to drive his car for him. Cole agrees, and convinces Harry to join him. With Harry’s help and Claire’s, Cole comes to realize that even if some things are beyond his control, he must go on to face them if he is to race and win. The ending is marred by its predictability, evident from the earliest moments of the movie, and by the fact that there is nothing at stake except another win.
The premise seems to say that true courage wells up inside ourselves, and allows us to face the challenges of life, even if some things are beyond our control. This is not a biblical premise, since the source of courage is from God, for “without Christ we can do nothing” (John 15:5). Likewise, Joshua was told to be strong and of good courage because God was with him.
Thus, true courage is based on dependence on God, not on ourselves. We can be courageous, as Isaiah 52:12 says, because the Lord goes before us and is our rear guard. Proverbs 28:1 adds, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” DAYS OF THUNDER, however, embraces the kind of courage that Goliath had, rather than the kind displayed by David, who slew the giant.
The movie is also not recommended for other reasons, the not least of which is a blatantly promiscuous sex scene between Cole and Claire, in addition to other instances of sexual fondling and innuendo. From start to finish, profanity and obscenity litter the poorly written script, which contains some really unimaginative dialogue. Twice the writer, the famous Robert Towne, resorts to lines like “What are you thinking” to fill in space and time when the script stalls. And, the script stalls often, when it is not lurching ahead without any control or continuity. For unthinking drama, Towne even has Claire bang Cole’s head, recently suffering from a concussion, against the wall, before kissing him with an all too aggressive passion. However, Towne has given Claire one good line, “Control is an illusion,” which points out the logical fallacy of the cognitive dissonance which is spreading like a cancer through our humanist society.
There are only so many different angles to shoot a race, so that the racing scenes become somewhat repetitive and tiresome. Thus, the movie’s race car aspect, with its engine noise, stirring music and fast cars, tends to wear off after a while. To add interest to these repetitive sequences, the director, Tony Scott, has the drivers bump each other repeatedly, something that a professional NASCAR driver, who screened the film, said would bring the officials and the police down on the drivers for attempted manslaughter.
Though DAYS OF THUNDER is beautifully lit and lensed, and Robert Duvall does an outstanding acting job as Harry (worthy of an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), the movie is unbelievably dull for a high-budget, high-concept action flick. One wonders if anyone took the time to read this mediocre script before spending almost $40 million to make it into a “B” movie. Step on the gas to pass this one.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please address your comments to: Mr. Martin S. Davis, Chairman, Paramount, 1 Gulf & Western Plaza, New York, NY 10023 (212) 333-4600.
Numerous profanities and obscenities; partial female nudity; sexual fondling and innuendoes; and, alcohol abuse