Rush Week – A review of Rush
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 123 minutes
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara
Summary: Movies about rivalries, when handled correctly, can become bigger than just the sum of the two main characters, and that’s what we have here. James Hunt and Niki Lauda created a generation of Formula One fans with their experiences both on and off the racetrack..
Formula One racing makes Nascar look like a go-cart race. I mean that with true respect to any Nascar fans out there.
F-one cars are faster and flimsier. The drivers tend to be more daring and the accidents tend to be a lot more deadly. As the narration goes at the beginning of the film, twenty-five drivers start the season. At least two don’t finish it.
This is the stage that is set when Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) from Austria meets James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) of England. The two meet on a Formula 3 track here in the US at Watkins Glen. And the battlefield stays in play throughout the story.
Lauda is a hothead who understands and helps redesign the cars he drives, making them faster and more maneuverable. He raises the money to ensure that he gets a shot at Formula One glory, much to the chagrin of rival Hunt.
Hunt, as a driver, is probably the equal of Lauda, but his discipline is sorely lacking. While Lauda is the consummate professional both on and off the track, Hunt is a playboy, surrounding himself with booze and broads at the conclusion of every race.
There is no doubt of who should come out on top. But that’s the nature of rivalries. And the reason we make heroes out of people who may have questionable moral compasses when they’re out of the limelight.
At points, the rivalry almost becomes a vendetta when Hunt’s car is disqualified but perhaps what results down the road as payback may be almost overkill in comparison. Yet in the end, both men manage to improve their perceived characters, if even just slightly, as a result.
Even in love, Lauda proves himself to excel just a little better than his playboy rival. Hunt marries, hoping that the marriage will settle him down. Instead, he discovers that it hampers him and he uses her as an excuse for his failures. It isn’t long before his wife Suzy (Olivia Wilde) leaves him for actor Richard Burton (in one of his legendary pauses between Liz Taylor marriages, of course)..
On the other hand, Lauda’s wife Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) stays with him even in the toughest of circumstances. The women manage to embody yet another facet of the differences in these two men.
A huge strength for this movie is in the casting. Hemsworth brings just the right mix of bravado and smarmy charm to playboy Hunt and even somewhat resembles the real man on who his character is based.
But Bruhl, on the other hand, is the spitting image of Lauda in his younger years. His arrogance is firmly evident in the portrayal and there’s something to be said for swearing in German. The guttural language makes the foul language sound even more harsh and degrading.
Ron Howard is an actor’s director and it shows strongly here. He manages to capture all the facets of the rivalry but he gives the actors the room they need to develop the story on their own. This is, arguably, one of his best movies to date.
The men who drive these cars are a special breed indeed. And though we may not understand or desire to live in the world of their creation, we can take a lesson from the characters they foster on the fans around them.
And isn’t that the true nature of good sportsmanship anyway? I give Rush 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.