Top Gun 2 - a Trickle of Maverick and a lot of Cruise
There you have it "Top Gun 2", oops sorry wrong movie, or is it. There are so many similarities between "Days of Thunder" and "Top Gun" that you could be forgiven for thinking that you have just watched a remake of it, but on 4 wheels. Firstly it brings together again, the acting and directional pairing of Tom Cruise and Tony Scott. Secondly, it focuses on a man who has the ability to be the best, but his own tempestuous nature causes him to fall short. Thirdly, the rivalry between the drivers is very similar to that of the pilots in "Top Gun". Fourthly, he falls in love with a blond who has power over him. Fifthly, he is involved in an accident which causes his confidence to be knocked and finally the outcome of "Days of Thunder" is very similar to "Top Gun". So there you have it, "Days of Thunder" is "Top Gun" on four wheels.
When Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise - Cocktail), a promising stock car driver, gets signed up to race in the glamorous world of NASCAR, all his dreams seem to have come true at once. But Cole is tempestuous, and likes to drive by the seat of his pants, much to the annoyance of his racing team owners as Cole struggles to win. Just as he seems to be controlling his irrational behaviour with the help of his mentor, Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall - Open Range), he ends up in a serious collision with rival Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker - Cliffhanger) leaving them both, hospitalized and in the care of Dr. Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman - Bewitched). Replaced by a hot shot rookie driver, Russ Wheeler (Cary Elwes - Edison), who is out there winning everything, Cole must get over his fear of crashing and get behind the wheel to become what he knows he can be.
So if "Days of Thunder" is such a similar movie to "Top Gun", why bother with it? Well if it's not broke, don't fix it. The formula which made "Top Gun" very popular, transfers to four wheels with effortless ease. "Days of Thunder" is packed with adrenalin and machismo as we watch the amazing racing driving, the dialogue is cheesy but fun, plus you have the on screen romance between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Probably what lets the movie down is that it is predictable, you know where it is going to lead and at times you feel a bit disappointed that they didn't try and give it a twist to separate it from "Top Gun".
On top of that, I have a problem with the characters, and in particular the lack of any real depth. With the likes of Cruise, Duvall, Rooker and even Kidman, I was stupidly expecting a demonstration of great acting skills, but instead the characters came over as weak and unbelievable. It was as if the cast were just reciting their lines without any real passion or meaning. Maybe, that's being a bit critical, because "Days of Thunder" is essentially a Hollywood crowd pleaser, with plenty of action and good looking stars, and achieves what it sets out to do.
In the lead role of Cole Trickle you have Tom Cruise and this is definitely not his best performance as I found myself struggling to cheer him on. It felt as if he was there in body but not in mind, as he excelled in the action sequences but the moment it required any depth of character to be displayed, he looked somewhat vacant. Opposite Cruise is Nicole Kidman as Dr. Claire Lewicki, the taller and more powerful woman who falls for Trickle's raw charm. Again like Cruise, this is by no means her best movie, but it is the film on which Cruise and Kidman fell in love.
Probably the best performance in "Days of Thunder" comes from Robert Duvall as Harry Hogge, Trickle's mentor who helps him too control his erratic driving. Still not the best performance I have ever seen from Duvall, but he does display more character than the rest of the stars. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes and Randy Quaid, all seem to be in the movie purely for the money, and don't really add anything of any exceptional quality.
"Days of Thunder" is directed By Tony Scott and although he has delivered an adrenalin pumping movie, I'm still disappointed that it didn't really move on from "Top Gun". Other than that, you can't really criticize his directional skills as he demonstrates the required action both on and off the track. The soundtrack is pretty much standard fair, with fast paced numbers, but nothing really stands out as being very memorable.
What this all boils down to is that "Days of Thunder" is still an okay movie, not exactly breathtaking but still an enjoyable adrenalin ride. Despite treading over very familiar territory, it still works and achieves what it sets out to do.