Days of Thunder is a peculiar movie about NASCAR that came out in 1990. It is peculiar because it is horribly inaccurate and the racing scenes will make any NASCAR fan cringe, but the story itself and the various acting performances make this particular film the type of movie you watch ’til the end no matter what scene you jump into or what you have planned later that day.
The incomparable Tom Cruise stars in this film as Cole Trickle (amazing NASCAR name) which means you will be treated to a couple of running scenes, some shouting, and plenty of close-ups of Cruise mugging for the camera. I am of the opinion that Cruise has never made a bad movie but then again, I have not seen Valkyrie. Robert Duvall, accompanied by a borderline cheesy southern accent, plays Cruise’s crew chief which is a lot like a coach. Randy Quaid is the owner hell-bent on creating the perfect team to win championships. Cary Elwes of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Saw 1 (ya, he’s talented, but those are probably the only movies you know) and Michael Rooker (really nothing you probably have seen unless you think Slither or The Sixth Day are cool) play Cruise’s main rivals, always trying to run him off of the road.
Deserving of her own paragraph, is Nicole Kidman. She plays the head-trauma doctor assigned to treat (I can’t tell you, it would ruin the movie!!!). Anyway, she is Cruise’s love interest marking the first time the one-time couple were on screen together. I am not a Kidman fan, but she is angelic in this movie, partly because she keeps the Australian accent. Being a doctor, she is always bossing Cruise around (she really is like a foot taller than him, it is a lot like a kindergarten teacher addressing an unruly student).
The plot is not complex: Cruise is hired to drive for a new team. He struggles mightily. He gets better, a lot better. He suffers a severe setback (Talladega Nights style). He comes back. And he… (99.9% of fictional sports movies end the same way with the good guy winning, except for Little Big League and Bad News Bears which will be written about in the future). Talladega Nights basically copied the rise and fall and rise plot of Days of Thunder, but just added more humor and Will Ferrell in his underwear.
Days of Thunder is a good movie with some intense racing action, a few well-written lines, and some chick flick scenes. While this movie will not win any awards (it actually won the BMI Film Music Award and was nominated for an Oscar for best sound), it is thoroughly enjoyable. Cruise may not be shirtless for 384 minutes like in Top Gun, but any movie with the diminuitive star from 20 years ago can’t be all bad, right ladies?