Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content, Nudity, Language, some Disturbing Images and brief Drug Use
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Peter Morgan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde & Alexandra Maria Lara
I think the best way to identify solid film set around a sport, regardless of which specific sport it may be, is if it can involve a viewer with no prior knowledge of the sport in question. Before stepping into the movie theater for RUSH, I had almost no idea what Formula 1 racing was. I just knew that RUSH sported a talented cast & crew and has been receiving a whole lot of acclaim since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. While I don’t have a complete grasp on Formula 1 or have any real desire to learn about it in detail, I can safely say that all the critical acclaim for RUSH is warranted. It’s a film about the men who drive the cars, rather than how fast and sleek their vehicles look. I can definitely see a possible Oscar buzz forming around this movie.
Spanning across seven years in the 1970’s, RUSH follows two very different drivers who became rivals. James Hunt is a playboy rich kid who loves to party, hump anything that moves and has a rather large ego. His reputation precedes him wherever he goes. Enter Niki Lauda, an Austrian driver, who calculates everything based on risks. Lauda knows that every time he races, there is a 20% risk of death. He won’t exceed that percentage by a single point. On the other hand, Hunt loves the thrill of facing danger head on and defying it in an extreme sense. The two become the bitterest of rivals, but also wind up motivating each other. What starts as sheer nastiness evolves into a mutual respect for each other, as different as they may be. RUSH is a feel-good movie if there ever was one.
One of the most surprising things about this story of rivals, fierce competition, and passion, is that this wasn’t made into a movie earlier. This seems almost like it occurred with the prospect of being turned into a film. The events may play out in a cinematic way, but that’s how they played out in reality. First and foremost, RUSH is a drama and not an average sports flick. The contrast between Hunt and Lauda is handled in a skillful way. We care about both people (I won’t call them characters, since this all really happened), despite their immense differences and some unlikable traits. James Hunt is a spoiled brat, used to getting his way. Niki Lauda is an asshole and admits to it, but sees it as a good trait.
Of course, these portrayals would be nothing without the actors delivering solid work throughout. For the most part, it’s a two-man show. Daniel Bruhl, who I’ve only seen as an ensemble in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, was brilliant as Lauda. Even though he’s a conniving and manipulative man who evaluates everything in a professional way, Bruhl brings out Lauda’s humanity and especially excels in the second half of the film. Chris Hemsworth brings his best work thus far as James Hunt, likable and troubled as a man used to getting his way, but winds up getting a real wakeup call.
The racing scenes are excellent. More than once, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see the outcome or if the driver would even be able to finish the race (accidents on Formula 1 seem more common than those crazy redneck Nascar crashes). It’s really at the final race of the 1976 tournament when the movie is at it’s finest. The drama of the character’s personal lives, including the relationships (a doomed one and a successful marriage) are intermixed with the bitter rivalry too. This is just a movie that winds up being interesting from the very beginning until the time that inevitable epilogue showing what eventually happened to the characters after the 1976 season comes to a close with one of them as world champion.
If it’s at all possible, try not to read too much into the actual events the movie is based on before going to see it. Just know that pretty much everything happened the way it did in the film. Otherwise, you might wind up spoiling some of the excitement for your first viewing (though I imagine I’ll be re-watching this film many times in the future). RUSH gives you exactly what its title promises! It also winds up being an uplifting and amazing drama that happens to be centered around racing! Even if you aren’t interested in Formula 1 (which I most certainly wasn’t before I saw this), this is a must-see!