Shockingly, ‘Rush’ isn’t a documentary about everyone’s favorite Torontonian band. Those of you who love Formula 1 (I do not) should be familiar with the story: two 1970s era egotistical drivers – James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) compete for first place in the fast and furious world of Formula One racing. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t require you to know anything about Formula One or what took place in this sport during the time period – this is a very thrilling picture.
Both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl capture the physical look of their real-life counterparts and deliver great performances (particularly Daniel Bruhl who I predict will be receiving a Best Actor Oscar nomination – and it is worthy). Both perfectly capture the characteristic traits that make them rivals; Hunt – the playboy who drives recklessly and Lauda – calculating the odds and mitigating the risks accordingly.
This is an extraordinary film from a director (Ron Howard) who has had some big hits (‘Apollo 13’) and some big misses (‘The Da Vinci Code’). The terrific script by Peter Morgan (who also collaborated with Ron Howard on ‘Frost/Nixon’ in 2008) hones in one what makes these guys risk their lives each time they go to work – Lauda’s character states that he calculated a 20% chance of getting killed during each race. Hunt describes his car as a coffin surrounded by high-octane fuel – a bomb on wheels.
‘Rush’ is a great-looking movie – the pic looks and feels like it was made back in the days before disco. Credit cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (he’s worked on Danny Boyle’s movies) for his grainy cinematography that transports us back in time. There are some horrific car crashes (the movie earns its R-rating) – there is very little between the driver, the metal, and the flames. I saw ‘Don Jon’ the same weekend and dumped on that movie for its overly repetitive quick edits. It is a challenge to make a movie about racing not feel repetitive and Howard succeeds admirably in this regard – whether it is the use of close-ups to make a grand sport like auto racing feel intimate or the first person point of view camerawork from inside the car. This is a stylish picture that never (pardon the pun) feels like it is just spinning its wheels.
I ended up caring about the main characters (which is uncommon in today’s moviegoing world) and how things would unfold for them. Mr.Howard doesn’t pick sides – this mano-a-mano between two very different people fighting for the same thing; you don’t want either of them to lose, despite their many human flaws which have been brought forward in this story. I think the real-life James Hunt would have loved this movie. QED.