Ron Howard brings us his vision of two real life racing legends – James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauder (Daniel Brühl). Well known to have been fierce rivals in the 1970’s, these two Formula One drivers are icons of the sport. This biographical film also stars Alexandra Maria Lara and Olivia Wilde.
The film opens right before what we know is going to be a pivotal race – those who know their racing history will know immediately just how pivotal – before flashing back to when Hunt and Lauder first met. Before they were the hottest rivalry around the world, the two drivers were nobodies, competing in Formula Three, hoping to catch some sponsors’ attention. The two couldn’t be more different. Hunt is a cocky playboy with a need for speed who drives for the pleasure – on and off the track. Lauder is calculating genius with something to prove, using his wits, technical know-how, and business savvy to make a name for himself, along with his driving ability.
Rush follows the rule of any genre film that wants to distinguish itself from its surroundings. It is a good film with a good story first, sports flick second. There is an intensity both on and off the track that is relentless, starting from the very first frame until the very last. Even the lighter scenes don’t betray the overall tone of the film, keeping the levels of tension firmly taught.
As should be expected, the Formula One racing sequences here are gripping, with an elevated sense of danger – excellent action on film. The performances of the two leads are also superb, but I’ll get to that momentarily. The thing that really shines here is the writing. These are complex characters, and the dialogue displays that while keeping a sharp wit with a believable tone. This is a thoroughly engrossing tale and never does a poorly written line pull you out of it. There are a few instances, given the genre, that it teeters on the the edge of cliche, but fantastic believable performances save it from going over.
As I mentioned previously, the performances here are top notch. Hemsworth continues to prove his acting ability beyond the imposing Norse god he’s best known as. Brühl as well is sharp, going for what I assume was a studied performance of method acting. There is a lot of moral ambiguity to the two, and the movie in general. Being based on real life, there is no clear hero or villain of the story. Both men are thoroughly despicable in some respects, but completely admirable in others. Herein lies one of the films greatest strengths – it’s rarely predictable. Granted, all it would take is a quick perusal of Wikipedia to find out what happens since it’s all based on fact, but it’s not such a well known story that most people will know going in. And unlike fictional sports flicks, having no clear cut “good guy vs. bad guy” dynamic as is often portrayed makes it a much more complex story than the underdog/rookie/new phenom battling their way to the championship against the evil team that cheats.
I tried to come up something negative to say about this film as well, but the best I can do is those couple small instances where a bit of dialogue borders on cliche, which comes with the territory of the genre. It might not be an “important” enough film to win a plethora of awards, but it is a finely crafted piece, a well oiled machine if you will.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“This movie is extremely intense [she was on the edge of her seat, if I may interject] and well done. I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for either.”
My Rating: Five out of Five Hats
Rush races into a limited release of 5 theaters, September 20, before expanding nationwide, September 27