When Tom met Nicole: Tom Cruise met Nicole Kidman when they were filming "Days of Thunder" together (also starring Robert Duvall and Randy Quaid). Now, that movie, as anyone can tell you, is Top Gun on wheels. First you have same star and director/producers. Then you have same cheesy whiny guitar soundtrack. Next, your brash, young driver/pilot initially wows the competition with his raw prowess. The hot instructor/doctor can't keep her hands off of him. However, he soon is brought back to reality after a nasty accident. After that, he's not the same driver/piolt. But, he finds redemption in the big race/encounter, where he overcomes his fear, pays a small penance to the memory of his partner/friend, and comes out the hero, this time, humbled and respectful of his place in the scheme of things.
Okay, there you have it. But you know what? I like both of those movies. I just watched "Days" a few nights ago, and offer some thoughts, as I know you all want to hear them.
First, it's just fun seeing stock cars circa 1989. Looking under the hood you still see these large, round, silver air filters - just like you saw on all the big block American engines until about 10 years ago. But these are the high performance racing Chevy Luminas, et al. Funny.
Second, in the final race, Cole's return to Daytona after his bad accident, he's in last place mid-way through the race. Now, this is a 200-lap race, so by lap 100 or so, in most oval races, that means you're probably two laps off the lead at this point. But...a bad accident occurs, and there's smoke and oil everywhere, and Cole has to go through it or admit that he can no longer race. He's talked through it by Duvall: "Pick a line and go through it. You can do it Cole!" But can he? Yes...yes he can. And he does! Cole lets out a whoop of triumph and he literally puts the pedal to the metal and off he goes. A mere few laps later, he's in ninth - which looks like no more than a 100 yards off the leader. Point is, he was in last after 100 or more laps, but he was never off the lead lap! No way. And they call "The Day After Tomorrow" unrealistic!
Third, Nicole Kidman, as much as I like to look at her, is no doctor. I mean, Kelly Preston as a Top Gun flight instructor? Sure. But Kidman doesn't have the gravitas that Kelly possessed. Her examination of Cole to see how he's recovering, and she's doing the "close your eyes, walk, open, walk" routine, just too amateur.
Next, Cary Elwes as the young punk driver. I'm sorry, he's a good actor, but he's about as much a NASCAR driver as I am. See, Cruise's Cole was an open-wheel driver who lost his sponsor, so he debases himself in the stock cars. That's why it's okay for him to be down South with the good old boys. But Elwes, well, he's more fitting for Victorian period pieces.
Last, nothing beats Duvall. You can say that for any movie he's in. When he's talking to the chassis, explaining to it how he's going to engineer it. "I'm gonna put a fuel line in you that can hold a gallon of fuel." Priceless man, priceless. I wished I was that Lumina, I tell you.