Rush, the latest offering from director Ron Howard, is an exhilarating and dramatic biographical action movie set in the glamorous world of the 1970s Formula One driver. Being a fairly faithful retelling of true events, the movie focuses on the careers of and rivalry between Austria’s Nikki Laura (Daniel Bruhl) and Britain’s James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) in the mid 1970s during which the pair were the cream of the motor racing world. Though the movie begins in 1970, the main thrux of the plot is the 1976 F1 season during which the pair’s rivalry and willingness to put themselves in the path of danger reached an all time high before the season reached a dramatic climax in Japan.
I need to mention very early on that personally I’m a huge fan of Formula One and have only missed around three races since my first in 1994. I love the history, the strategy and the technology of the sport and would rank it amongst my biggest passions. Because of this I was worried that my judgement of the film would be clouded but I’m confident that the film is good enough that my love of its backdrop hasn’t affected my enjoyment. In many ways the movie reminded me of the sublime BAFTA award winning documentary Senna in that although both movies are about F1 and F1 drivers, they could be about anything. It’s the story and characters who make both films great. They could be set within any discipline.
Beginning with the story, as someone who was aware of the rivalry, I was worried that Howard would bring too much glamour and ‘Hollywoodize’ it. Thankfully he and writer Peter Morgan appear to have approached it with a genuine love for the sport and the protagonists which is relieving as the real life story doesn’t require much additional glitz or invention. In a way it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for a film to be made about the 1976 F1 season. It seems perfect for the movies. I’m sure there must have been numerous documentaries made about it though I haven’t seen any myself.
The two central characters are diametrically opposed in almost every aspect. James Hunt was the archetypal F1 playboy, a man who would drink champagne and smoke cannabis on his way to the grid with a girl on each arm. Known throughout his career as a party boy, Hunt is said to have slept with over 5,000 women. His personality and attitude to life couldn’t be more different from Lauda who was a meticulous worker, spending every waking hour working on his driving and car, leaving little time for socialising, something which Lauda was never bothered about. The differences in character are well spelled out by Howard’s movie which features several scenes of Hunt partying and Lauda working. Many of these are funny and they’re always enjoyable.
The film also picks up on the similarities between the two though. Both had a passion for winning and while Hunt showed little attention to work outside of the car, once he was in the cockpit, he was as truer racer as there’s ever been. Both men also experienced problems with their family and were partially estranged from their parents due to their career choice. I enjoyed the gradual unveiling of the men’s similarities as much as the fun that was to be had with their differences.
I was impressed with the actors, both of whom captured the men they were portraying. Hemsworth recreates Hunt’s charm, style and cocksure-cockiness with ease and appears to put more effort into this performance than I’ve seen before. His accent is also spot on. Daniel Bruhl is an actor who I’ve championed to anyone who’ll listen to me for years. He’s one of the most under appreciated actors working today and looks as to have broken out internationally on the back of this film. Although it’s easy to fall for Hemsworth’s charm opposite Bruhl’s anxious and arrogant Lauda, he quietly steals the film. This makes it even more inappropriate that in the UK at least, the film is being marketed as a Chris Hemsworth – Olivia Wilde picture. Bruhl has sadly and undeservingly received a low billing in the build up to the film’s release despite being co-star and narrator. Wilde it should be said is very good in her few scenes and sports a fantastic accent.
I was taken aback with the racing which was much better than I was expecting beforehand. Hollywood has had a go at recreating top motor racing before, usually with disastrous results (Sylvester Stallone I’m looking at you) so I was nervous about the look of the film but it turned out brilliantly. Howard captures the era perfectly, so much so that my girlfriend though much of the footage was from the archive. The costumes, music and especially cars look fantastic. The movie wonderfully recreates some of the most beautiful cars the sport has seen. The actual racing is exciting, fast and loud, everything you expect from F1. Howard makes use of some interesting camera angles including those inside helmets, wheels and around the track to create some electrifying shots. Special mention should go to the makeup department who craft some excellent prosthetics for the latter stages.
As you can probably tell, I was a huge fan of this movie and will probably head back to the cinema to see it again. Despite my enjoyment though, it isn’t perfect. As you’d expect, there are things missing from the real story, though this won’t bother many people who see it. I also thought that Hanz Zimmer’s score was ineffective, a rare miss for the composer. The sound effects and soundtrack were excellent though. Another problem I had was that I wasn’t fond of the final scene. This for me was too ‘Hollywood’ and a little sentimental. These are all small problems though in a film which is otherwise excellent. I honestly think it will appeal to and please people without any interest in the sport as well as satisfy the purists. Ron Howard has made a Formula One film that remains true to the sport and some of its most colourful characters while allowing those who have no knowledge of the story to enjoy an exhilarating action movie with a great rivalry and triumph over adversity story.