The young need for speed stock car driver Cole Trickle (Cruise) is given the chance, to compete at the highest level. To his assistance he has the over-the-hill stock car builder Harry Hoggle (Duvall).
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“And Harry, I know you're great, you know you're great, but if the guy in the car doesn't trust you we're never gonna win a damn race.” This line sums up the emotional difficulties that need to be overcome for Trickle to reach his maximum potential. Trickle is a superb driver but he has no knowledge about cars whatsoever and his need for speed is more than the cars can handle. Harry needs to reach out to the stubborn Trickle and mentor him. This turns out to be easier said than done, and he needs the calming voice of a doctor (Kidman) to help him out.
In Days of Thunder producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson re-used the formula that worked so well for them in Top Gun (1986). This was their newly formed production company’s first feature (Top Gun was produced for Paramount). Once again they attached Tony Scott to direct, hired Hans Zimmer to compose the music and Tom Cruise to headline. The sound effects are mind blowing, it even resulted in an Oscar nomination, and the racing scenes are an adrenaline rush. It was another box office hit. It did however not match Top Gun in earnings, worldwide 166M compared to the whopping 345M.
The love story between Trickle and Dr. Claire Lewicki (Kidman) not only sparked on screen but also ultimately led to an off-screen marriage between the two actors. Cruise was married to Mimi Rogers at the time, but married Kidman later the same year.
When Rowdy no longer is allowed to race, due to injuries from the crash with Trickle, a new rival is created in Russ Wheeler (Cary Elwes). Wheeler race for the same owner as Trickle, but after first blocking Trickle in the depot and then crashing him in the wall Trickle sees red. During Wheeler’s celebratory winning lap Trickle drives into him, crashing both cars. A fight erupts in the depot between both teams and Trickle looses his sponsor. Things are looking bad for Trickle now as he has to find a new sponsor, regain his fearlessness and patch things up with the doctor, who finds him an irresponsible adrenaline junkie. Will he get his act together before the Daytona 500?
To sum things up this is a great racing movie and a landmark NASCAR movie. Racing fans wont be disappointed as familiar courses like Darlington, Rockingham and Daytona are depicted and real life NASCAR drivers like Rusty Wallace cameo. Movie lovers will get their fuel as well from some a-grade acting, well-shot racing sequences and a fascinating story. This is a strong 3 out of 5.