Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Stephen Manger
Written by Peter Morgan
Running Time: 124 mins
Release date: 13th September 2013
I have been waiting for what seems like forever for this film to come out so I can share with you my thoughts (embargoes can make a critics life hell). So here goes. Rush is an absolute triumph in every way and its all credit to director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan, who have managed not only to make one of the best human dramas this year but also one of the most nail-biting movies of the year.
The early 70s and dashingly handsome quintessential Home Counties racing driver James Hunt is having the time of his life driving at crazy speeds in Formula 3, just enjoying the dangers and the added bonuses that being a playboy brings when he meets Nikki Lauder, a brash, no-nonsense Austrian who takes Hunt on in the minors, knocking the blonde off his top spot. Lauder buys his way into the ultimate for any driver, Formula 1, making James long for a piece of the action. Soon it becomes apparent that Lauder is a machine both on and off the track, winning his first World Championship.
1976 and Hunt has joined the F1 too. Soon the rivalry between the men really begins to show; James with his laid back approach while Lauder seems to be all technical and serious. Then on a rainy day in Germany, the fate of their rivalry changes forever.
Now I know what you are thinking. This is a film about motor racing. I’m not going to bother. Wrong. In the same way that Rocky is not about boxing, this is a tale of two very different men who lead very different lives but are connected by a motor sport. It is a film about passion, honour, the fear of losing, the joy of winning and how fate can play an evil card. Its also a thrill ride when we do see the racing and you are literally in the cars flying around a track at top speed.
Having Howard on the helm is a risky choice. Not known for playing films totally straight, dashing in lashings of sentimentality as and when he can, this is a far more restrained Howard then we usually know him to be. The film is all the better for that. He doesn’t give us rose-tinted visions of these two men, instead showing them warts and all. As I was watching the film, I did wonder to myself what Nikki Lauder thought of it, as he comes across as an emotionless task master whose obsessed with being the best. Writer Morgan said that he spend hours with the former World Champion and he approves of the film completely.
The performances are pitch perfect, with Thor actor Chris Hemsworth making a charming Hunt, who manages to make you understand why women (and men) fell in love with him. He is devilishly good looking, completely at ease with himself and incredibly flirtatious, yet at the same time coming across as a man with a much darker side. Daniel Bruhl couldn’t be more like Lauder if he tried. Everything for his almost monotonous delivery to his rat-like features (Lauder was nicknamed The Rat), it is a triumph of a performance.
The rest of the performances and the sense of period are beautifully captured but the other side of this film that makes it a winner is how it handles the racing. Like Howard’s Apollo 13, you know how it turned out and yet you are still on the edge of your seat. Here he has managed to do it again, only this time, through the amazing and exciting races and the now legendary crash is like watching the actual event happen, only this time, you are in the driving seat.
If I do have one criticism, the commentary does feel false and a little like an instruction video for those who don’t know about Grand Prix racing. I understand why its there but it would have been nice to have had some authentic ness as the rest of the film is so solid and strong. Having said that, it’s such a small criticism that it still didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the film.
Fans of formula 1 will love it but as I said before, don’t let that put you off. Peter Morgan, who is a master of biopics (writer of The Queen and another Howard film, the excellent Frost/Nixon) has delivered he good, being respectful to both the Hunt legacy and to Lauder and formula 1 in general. After a Summer of disappointments, here is the first truly terrific film of the Autumn and in my opinion, one of this year’s most impressive films of the years. Funny, sexy, exciting. Don’t walk to see it…drive as fast as you can