Synopsis: Set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing, Rush portrays the exhilarating true story of two of the greatest rivals the world has ever witnessed-handsome English playboy Hunt and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Lauda. Taking us into their personal lives on and off the track, Rush follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error. If you make one mistake, you die.
Release Date: September 20, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Action
Every great sports movie needs a great rival, but in most the rival is a faceless, over-skilled team or a one-note opponent. Few movies shine as much light on the actual rivalry that exists between two people as director Ron Howard’s Rush, which makes its approach to the sports genre all the more refreshing. Set in the ’70s, Rush focuses on the infamous rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), two Formula 1 drivers who were as well known for their antics on the track as off.
Hunt, a womanizing thrill seeker, always felt one step behind Lauda, who himself was a socially inept a-hole. Their rivalry festered, and eventually came to a head during the 1976 F1 Grand Prix Season when both knew it was their time to shine. However, although Rush documents one of the greatest rivalries in F1 history, if not sports in general, its focus is placed more so on the characters of Lauda and Hunt. Yes, there are dazzling scenes of fast-paced racing, shot beautifully and in extreme close-up by Anthony Dod Mantle, but the film is more a two character piece than anything else – juxtaposing the lives of two brutish personalities whose hate for each fueled every element of their lives.
As a sports biopic, Rush should be counted up there with some of the best, even if some of its plot points are a bit trite. The dynamic created between Hunt and Lauda is unlike anything seen in the genre, and is endlessly fascinating to watch develop. Both leads are superb in their roles, jumping headfirst into characters that are charming one minute and utterly detestable the next. It’s an important touch for a movie like this, as it doesn’t reduce the rivalry to a one-note competition. In fact, the racing is not the focal point of Rush, which makes it all the more unique. It’s as if the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt played out in their personal lives more than it ever did on the track.
There are some negatives to Rush – it’s a little formulaic, and it loses focus here and there – but it succeeds overall as a unique look into the sport of Formula 1 racing and one of its greatest rivalries. Stellar acting, gorgeous photography, and a compelling script come together to make Rush a film worth seeing. It’s a story few will be familiar with, and one that’s fun to watch unfold.
As was mentioned briefly, both of the film’s leads, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, carry the gravitas necessary for bringing these bold personalities to life. Hemsworth, who is usually the suave stud, hides a layer of dickishness behind his performance as Hunt. He’s still as charming as ever, but he’s not as likeable once you get to know more about him. Granted, Hemsworth isn’t asked to do much beyond look handsome, woo women, and sometimes ponder his shortcomings, but he is perfectly suited for the role.
Bruhl, on the other hand, takes control of the Lauda character and becomes him. From the moment the audience meets him, Lauda is supposed to be the antithesis to Hunt, an unlikeable jerk who thinks only about winning at any cost. But, Bruhl makes him a believable jerk, one who the audience grows to understand, and even empathize with, over time. Rush is Bruhl’s breakout role (at the ripe age of 35), and he owns it.
Anthony Dod Mantle, best known for his Oscar-winning work on Slumdog Millionaire, is the true creative standout of Rush. Unequivocally, Rush is one of the best-looking films of the year. Mantle puts a tremendous amount of motion into each of his shots, never letting the camera sit still for too long. His cinematography is part of the reason that Rush feels like a race regardless of whether there are cars on the screen. The look of the film is also very unique, as if every scene was shot under the pale blues and oranges of dawn. The look of Rush is unlike any film I have seen in quite some time.
Also, the film’s racing scenes are shot in extreme close-up, which helps up the intensity of the sport. Watching pistons fire, or seeing foliage speed by from inside the driver’s helmet, makes the racing scenes exciting on a visceral level, regardless of Hunt or Lauda’s respective position to each other. The film is certainly light on racing scenes overall, but the way Mantle shoots them makes them so much fun to watch.
Towards the beginning of Rush, I found myself extremely impressed with Ron Howard’s direction. Having seen most of his films, I thought I had a pretty solid handle on what he is capable of delivering both as a storyteller and a filmmaker, and saw Rush as almost a completely different product. But then, as the movie progressed, I started to realize that Rush is almost an anti-Ron Howard film. It has flashes of those overly saccharine Howard touches, but the other creative personnel help elevate the material with their work, specifically the cinematography and Peter Morgan’s script.
That said, Howard’s willingness to tackle the subject matter and not bill it as a generic racing movie is worth commending. And I wouldn’t say anything about his direction is sub-par, I would simply attribute most of the film’s successes to other members of the crew.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ron Howard
- Screenwriter(s): Peter Morgan
- Cast: Chris Hemsworth (James Hunt)Olivia Wilde (Suzy Miller)Natalie Dormer (Gemma) Daniel Bruhl (Niki Lauda)
- Editor(s): Daniel P. Hanley
- Cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Hans Zimmer
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA