The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Rush | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Rush

The story of the rivalry between Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer

The mid-seventies: the sport of Formula One is dominated by the rivalry between two drivers; Niki Lauda, a studious Austrian whose knowledge of engineering enables him to get the best from his cars, and James Hunt, a playboy Brit with a "live life on the edge" attitude that allows him to takes risks more sensible drivers refuse to.
The marketing, at least in the English speaking world, of Ron Howard's return to his high-octane roots (the former child star made his directing debut with 1977's 'Grand Theft Auto') would have you believe the film centers on Hunt (history so often records the loudest voice rather than the one worth listening to). It doesn't. Neither, however, does it single out Lauda. The lead character of this film is the rivalry itself, so tangible an entity it is. More than any individual talent, it's each man's hatred, jealousy and grudging respect for the other that drives them on to excel.
Howard, and screenwriter Peter Morgan, could have taken the easy route and presented one man as hero, the other villain. Thankfully, there are no black and white portrayals on show here. This is a celebration of life's grey areas. Both characters come across as intensely unlikable, arrogant in their own ways, but as the story progresses, you come to empathise with Lauda while feeling sympathy for Hunt.
Both men are essentially loners, the difference being Lauda seems comfortable in his own skin, even when that skin becomes distorted in an infamous fiery incident, whereas Hunt craves human attention. While the latter is constantly surrounded by hangers-on, he seems to have nobody he could legitimately call a friend, whereas Lauda, uncomfortably at first, finds himself in a marriage that changes his outlook and priorities.
The old cliche about true stories is that "you couldn't write this". In the case of 'Rush', it's more that Hollywood "wouldn't write this". The climax, set during a terrifying, rain-swept Japanese Grand Prix, contains an incredibly romantic gesture, though not of the cliched sort Hollywood likes to churn out. It's based around a decision by Lauda that recalls Jimmy Cagney's capitulation at the end of 'Angels With Dirty Faces', sacrificing his reputation for the good of others. Like most great cinematic moments, it's incredibly simple, and brilliantly underplayed by Bruhl, and could well be the fist-pump moment of 2013.
The German-Spanish actor has impressed in supporting roles in the recent past and his portrayal of Lauda will no doubt become his signature role, he embodies the character in such a comprehensive manner. Hemsworth, who has struggled to find roles not based around his physique, finally gets to show his acting chops and is equally impressive, conveying the nervous arrogance of a character whose outward bravado conceals a deep melancholy.
If the marketing makes it seem like you're in for 'Days of Thunder 2', rest assured you don't need to be a fan of motorsports to appreciate Howard's film. There are few things more dramatic than a great sporting rivalry and Howard, Morgan, Bruhl, Hemsworth and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, whose photography stunningly captures the smoke-stained look of the time, bring this drama to the big screen in stunning fashion.

Eric Hillis