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Film Review – RUSH

3 min read

RUSH is a tense, exciting, turbo-charged emotional thrill-ride!  Focusing on the 1976 Formula 1 racing season and the back and forth battle for World Champion between Austrian Niki Lauda and Englishman James Hunt, RUSH is a fact-based sports-rivalry story that delves deep into the lives and personalities of two very different competitors and explores the underlying circumstances and motivations that drive them to both succeed and test their own limits. You don’t have to like auto racing, or even know anything about Formula 1 to enjoy the movie.

At the start of the movie, director Ron Howard foreshadows a disaster for one of the racers during the 1976 season, creating a sense of pending tragedy and then backtracks a few years to the first moment the racers meet on the Formula 3 circuit, moving forward through each racers entrance into the elite world of Formula 1. From then on the story focuses on the 1976 season where they have by now developed a sticky rivalry and trade wins back and forth and are neck and neck in earning enough points to be crowned World Champion. The film isn’t all about the races, and except for critical ones, Howard merely shows the finish line, instead focusing more on the drama that unfolds off the track, which is even more interesting.


What Howard does brilliantly in this film is avoid the trap of framing it as very cliché good vs. evil rivalry by demonizing Lauda and canonizing Hunt.  Instead, he makes it a film about two very different competitors who are both flawed, sympathetic and likable, and fall at opposite ends of a different spectrum. Awkward Lauda, who is not handsome, has an unimposing stature, and a very blunt, deliberate and calculating nature, stands in stark contrast to Hunt’s movie-star looks, emotional disposition, and more carefree attitude towards life and  racing. Lauda, who is no doubt prickly, seems unsympathetic at first, but soon comes off looking like the small, socially awkward kid who was pushed around all his life, then grows up and stands up for himself. His bluntness can at first make him seem like a jerk, but you eventually realize it’s just his personality, and one of the key traits, along with his almost unnatural sense of a cars mechanical flaws, that propelled him to the top so quickly. He seems to be able to consistently accomplish what people tell him is impossible, including coming back from the brink of death to compete again.  This makes him extremely respectable, and I’m only scratching the surface of what makes him so fascinating, thanks to a brilliant performance by Daniel Bruhl. After the final race and the World Champion is crowned, Howard punctuates the sentence with two key scenes, one with Lauda and his wife, the other with Lauda and Hunt, that capture the irony of Lauda’s situation, that he ultimately decided the outcome, and that he was the one who took the whole thing more seriously. The lessons he learned, and didn’t learn, and his response to the hand he was dealt is very touching, and very human.

Chris Hemsworth proves he’s not just a pretty face, and gives us an outstanding performance as James Hunt, which at first may seem like an easy role, but on deeper inspection it probably wasn’t. Hemsworth is Australian, and Hunt was English and he pulls off the accent very well. He really envelopes this character, and shines in all aspects of the role, including the deeper, more emotional scenes such as the key moment when Hunt’s marriage to his supermodel wife breaks down.

RUSH is a fascinating glimpse into an elite sport, and the brief rivalry in 1976 between two of its most interesting figures.  Overall, a very compelling story, Ron Howard’s direction, Peter Morgan’s (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) incredible script, a great score by Hanz Zimmer, and great performances by a talented cast make RUSH one of the best and most enjoyable films of the year.

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