- 1976: Hunt versus Lauda is not interested in bucking genre. With less interesting content, that might be a flaw, but here the story is interesting enough that the film is successful.
- Director Matthew Whiteman manages to make the Hunt and Lauda rivalry compelling to non-racing fans, probably because he pays attention to James Hunt and Niki Lauda as men, not just as racers.
- That is not to say we come to know Hunt or Lauda. 1976’s scope and run time do not allow for such widespread understanding. It is to say that we see glimpses of each man’s humanity and are thereby drawn into their story, no matter our perceptions of Formula One.
- Whiteman uses standard documentary format, showing modern day interviews mixed with stock footage of discussed topics. It is a proven technique and works well.
- This documentary is roughly fifty minutes long, a fact that often hinders it. Like the narrative film released in 2013, 1976 doesn’t explain everything. Why did the racing organization return the points Hunt lost in Spain? Why did they review his car in the first place? Why did Lauda’s helmet come off? And more. Had this documentary been longer, the story it tells might feel more complete.
- Some of the sound mixing is a bit off. Music and race car sounds sometimes drown out the voice over, be it the narrator (Ed Stoppard) or interviewees.
- And yet 1976 proves mostly successful. It sets out to document the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the one that resulted in the latter being badly burned and the former being crowned world champion. Given its limited ambition, the film succeeds.
- Final Grade: B-