Plot: A young hot-shot stock car driver gets his chance to compete at the top level.
Director: Tony Scott
Released: August 1990
It would be hard to review this film without comparing it to the much more successful Top Gun after all it has the same director, same star and an almost identical plot, it certainly seems that they were hoping that lightning would strike twice, sadly, however, this didn’t occur. That isn’t to say that when watching Days of Thunder you’re not treated to a film with impressive editing, great camerawork of racing action exciting and peak Tom Cruise, just missing the sprinkling of magic that made Top Gun a cult classic.
Cruise was on a hot run of form when coming into this film. with Rain Man and Born On The Fourth Of July, both doing well at the box office, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be three in a row, with this movie being somewhat of a letdown for not just the makers but the audience too. One of its main problems being predictability, the film progresses in much the same way every other racing or sport-related film you’ve seen in the past, meaning you know the ending way ahead of time. Not only this but Cruise’s character’s story arc is very similar to his arc in his other films of the time. A young, wild and confident but naturally talented kid, who has the talent to be the best, he just needs an older mentor to help tame him, all topped off with a more sensible love interest.
This means going in you should know that you won’t get anything new or groundbreaking. Even with the inclusion of big-name stats such as Kidman, Quaid, Rooker, Elwes and John C Reilly, the film remains distinctly middle of the road at best, with only Robert Duvall managing elevate his material to something approaching stand out.
None of this should come as a surprise given the supposed troubled production, with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer disagreeing with Tony Scott’s plan for the production, with the script changing daily and scenes often written the day of filming. It’s even stated that during one driving sequence, Tom Cruise had to read his lines off cue cards attached to his windshield and had lines fed to him by ear-piece in subsequent schenes because of the number of changes, all of which would help explain why characters would seemingly change personality throughout for no apparent reason.
Despite the chemistry, even the love story between Cruise and Kidman doesn’t make enough sense. It’s hard to see how a doctor would fall for a racing driver if their first meeting ends up with him mistaking her for a stripper and attempting to undress her. The two actors fell in love over the course of the production and ended up getting married, it’s a shame the makers couldn’t have transferred some of that magic to the big screen.
I’m not saying the film is entirely bad, it’s very of its time and nothing more than a popcorn action film. but the racing scenes are fast and fun to watch, with mixed in shots of real NASCAR races to add authenticity, sadly, however, it’s let down by a chaotic film and a big name cast being let down because of it.