Review: Rush


Ron Howard’s film depicting the famous rivalry between race car drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One racing season is fast cars and great action, but there is so much more here. Dealing with two men as they carve paths to get to the same finish line, so to speak, in life. An extremely entertaining film for both its spectacle and its depth.

The film begins with the infamous race that nearly cost Niki Lauda his life. We hear narration from Lauda (Daniel Brühl) which helps to establish, rather quickly to the audience, the extent of his rivalry with James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Just before the race begins we are thrown back in time six years prior; back to the genius of the antagonism between the two drivers. Their story begins in 1970 when the two amateurs were racing in Formula Three. Hunt and Lauda are so polar opposite that it was if they were fictional characters. Hunt is tall, dashing, and a clear extrovert. While Lauda is a short, conservative, and introverted. Each characters very existence made the other’s that much more stand out when they shared the screen. As time goes on we see small but significant glimpses into similarities between the two. While they are few it helps to establish a sense of community between the two in the mind of the audience. In the end, it humanizes them and shields the characters from ever acquiring simplistic labels like hero or villain.

Hunt has the reputation of being a English playboy; very much deserved. He works to shed this persona and ‘calm down’ by marrying Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde). When Hunt doesn’t acquire any sponsorship and runs out of money it becomes all too clear that Suzy cannot deal with Hunt’s outlandish behavior. She plays to the notion of Hunt accepting who he is and to never compromise that. Simultaneously, Niki Lauda the calm and calculating Austrian driver meets a woman Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara) at a party. She is really the only character shown to actually ‘get’ Lauda and because of this they have an immediate bond. Once both drivers are firmly in Formula One racing; Lauda joining up with Ferrari and Hunt taking over a spot at McLaren the two are evenly matched to go for the Formula One championship.

From here out we get excellent scenes of races throughout the 1976 season. Many races transitioning from stills of the original racing posters. This is some of the freshest looking scene transitions I’ve seen in awhile. The racing scenes were truly thoughtful. Giving perspectives to pull in fans of Formula One racing and non fans alike. Shots from the grass next to hairpin turns not only allowed for interesting perspectives but put the audience in the action and didn’t rely solely on the driver seat angle.

After a barrage of incredibly exhilarating racing scenes we finally catch up to the race that was shown in the very beginning of the film. During the race in Nürburgring, West Germany Lauda held a meeting to possibly cancel the race due to the weather. During this meeting Hunt argued that Lauda was purposefully trying to skew the season’s races so he could win the World Championships for himself. Hunt swayed enough of their fellow drivers and out voted the cancellation. Sadly, due to the weather and a vehicle malfunction Lauda slid off the track hit the wall and then was hit by another car. He sat trapped in his car for 1 minute engulfed in 800 degree flames; he survived. As we watch scenes of Lauda’s horrible disfigurement and painful road to recovery we also see James Hunt triumph race after race on his way to winning the championship. Amazingly, six weeks later Niki Lauda returns to Formula One and challenges Hunt in Japan for one last race to determine which man walks away the victor. The build up, design, and execution for that final race and Lauda’s return was simply perfect film making. From the perspectives of both men by this point in their careers to the symbolism and call backs to their individual personalities. Director Ron Howard paints a phenomenal picture of what life is like on the absolute edge. Two men willing to risk everything for a sport and the spirit of competition.

The acting in the film was nothing to scoff at. Daniel Brühl did an excellent job bringing Niki Lauda to life. He was able to show this cold and calculating Austrian, who loved to call people assholes, as somehow warm and understanding. Chris Hemsworth, who is best known for playing Thor in the Marvel Studios films, proves that he can step out of the pages of comics and into serious drama. Putting on the best performance of his career, so far, Hemsworth creates depth to the English playboy who can’t seem to grow up. As I said earlier, the two characters are polar opposite and just make each other better when on screen together. Brühl and Hemsworth’s dynamic is much more complicated than good guy versus bad guy, but rather like two brothers who are fighting for the last cookie. You just want to see more of them going after the prize and in the end you don’t care who gets it. Rush is far less about who wins and who loses, but rather what did they accomplish on the way.

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