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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Days of Thunder

As a fairly new NASCAR fan, I've been renting old NASCAR movies in recent months. I watched Days of Thunder a couple of nights ago. It was a little dated (it came out in 1990), but that’s okay with me. One thing that wasn’t dated though was the relationship between Cole Trickle (the driver, played by Tom Cruise) and Dr. Claire Lewicki (his physician, played by Nicole Kidman). After Cole gets into a wreck that nearly costs him his life, he’s gun-shy about getting back on the track—and his fear manifests itself as anger. Claire, who by this portion of this movie has become his love interest, doesn’t like it and she isn’t afraid to call him on it. Here’s what she says:

“You want to control something that’s out of control. That’s what you said to me wasn’t it? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that almost every else in this world automatically knows. Control is an illusion you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next—not on a freeway, not on an airplane, not inside our own bodies, and certainly not on a racetrack with forty other infantile egomaniacs. Nobody knows and nobody controls anything. Now you’ve gotten a glimpse of that and you are scared. You might not have the courage to race any more. You might never have had it.”

She said these words with the utmost confidence in her voice. In fact, she even shoved Cole a couple of times for good measure. But beyond all that, I took note of what she didn’t do. This scene took place in a parking lot. The wind was blowing hard and her long blonde frizzy hair was blowing in her face. She never once stopped to brush it away. She seemed to be saying that “I’m going to make my point and nothing is going to distract me.” Her words and actions hit home. Cole didn’t say a word. He just exhaled. And he didn’t seem to be able to inhale. The truth was finally out and he was going to have to deal with it.

At the end of the movie, Cole gets one more shot to race and it turns out to be at the same track in which he wrecked. He’s still afraid, but he climbs into the car anyway. Claire is in the pits cheering him on. With eight laps to go, Cole is running in second place. The camera pans to Claire and she gently pushes her hair out of her face. I had a feeling that everything was going to be okay after that. Gone was the tough exterior Claire put on in the parking lot when Cole needed to be challenged and in its place was a soft, gentle woman who simply wanted to see somebody she loved conquer his demons.


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