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After the success of Ron Howard’s adaptation of this story (James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s Formula 1 rivalry), a documentary was bound to be arriving soon. As it happens though this film, originally shown on BBC4, is under 60 minutes and is far from the usual ten-a-penny knocked together cash-in. Hunt vs. Lauda makes a good use of the story at its core (or should I say engine) and manages to balance information and entertainment. Just as Rush arrives on DVD (and is hugely snubbed at this years Oscars), those who felt Howard’s film skimmed on a few on-track details, may really want to pick this up.
This documentary is undoubtedly a TV doc but one that will appeal to both fans and newcomers to the sport. This is one of those sporting stories that defies belief (as this film states) and exceeds the bounds of fandom. Featuring some astute talking heads (including Lauda himself), this film charts the ups and downs, successes and tragedies as well as the wins and losses of the enthralling 1976 Formula 1 Season. There could have been more official sources interviewed but the time is used well and the on-track story is very much the focus of the film.
Where Howard’s film assessed these competitors as humans and racing icons, this film prefers to consider their career. To that end, some hoping for a look at James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the men, may be left wanting but those wanting the facts (including those omitted from Rush), will be far more delighted. This makes a brilliant companion piece to that film but also stands nicely on its own four wheels. Hunt vs. Lauda gives us some brilliantly assembled archive footage (some of which is never-before-seen), which backs the facts and these two racers’ natural competitive attraction (straight lacer vs. party playboy).
This film respectfully documents the story, not being too intrusive into Lauda’s horror or Hunt’s lavish living. It could have had deeper insight and thus been longer (in fact that would have been welcome) but from the point losses and politics to the Nurburing crash, most of it is all addressed in a concise 52-minute documentary and the film is a joy to sit through. One wonders if other racing rivalries would make as engaging, factual and somewhat emotional a film as this one. Hunt vs. Lauda arrives just as this story is being celebrated once again and as opposed to the usual cash-ins, this film is a nicely assembled piece of work. Buy it with Rush and revel in these brave drivers and their stories of triumph, heart and almost unbelievable levels of determination. Great viewing.
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