Rush Delivers With Stunning Cinematography and Fantastic Performances From Hemsworth, Brühl
I knew absolutely nothing about Formula 1 before I wrote about the race in Austin, TX last year. I had heard names like Senna and Andretti in passing conversations and articles in magazines, but I had little context and even less understanding of the sport. Over the last year, I’ve grown to appreciate the sport for its history, and Ron Howard’s Rush showcases another chapter in the F1 story previously unknown to me. The film highlights the intense rivalry between the emotionless, calculating Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl of Inglorious Basterds) and the carefree British playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth of Thor and any action movie from the last two years). While some non-race scenes are a little too concise and perfect to be anything but a Hollywood fabrication, the movie on the whole is well acted, well directed, well shot, and absolutely enjoyable.
The subject of the film is the rivalry of Hunt and Lauda as both drivers compete for the title of World Champion during the 1976 Formula 1 season. The year was notable for Lauda’s near-death crash at the Nürburgring and his struggle to return to F1.
Subtle this film is not. The character traits are written in early and reinforced throughout the film. The film practically opens on Hunt banging a nurse, and then he’s banging Olivia Wilde, and then he’s banging an air hostess, and when he’s not banging, he’s flirting. Brühl scowls his way through the film as Lauda obsesses over Hunt’s every victory, preferring to wear a look of controlled spite whenever he lays eyes on the hard partying Brit.
That isn’t to say the performances by Hemsworth and Brühl aren’t worth watching, however. Although the characters are remarkably one dimensional, both actors embody their subjects perfectly. Hemsworth portrays Hunt so well, in fact, I wonder if it was even difficult for him to play the affable ladies man. Probably not. Likewise, Brühl’s stoic, methodical Lauda is an impeccable rival to Hunt, a man whose feelings are muted to focus solely on the drive; he even complains of happiness to his new bride on their wedding night because he believes he will drive more cautiously now that he has something to lose.
The direction by Ron Howard is faultless, as is the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle. The starting grid at the Nürburgring and slow motion pornography of heavy rain at Fuji are a few exceptionally noteworthy highlights, and I especially liked the camera view of the exhaust pipes pointed backward like machine guns ready to obliterate the more lethargic cars.
Rush is completely accessible to people who have no idea what F1 is but enjoy character-driven dramatic films, or racing in general, or Chris Hemsworth’s bare ass. There are some off-track faults with the screenplay, but everything else makes up for the one-dimensional characters, and it is worth seeing on the big screen with a good sound system piping in the sound of screaming V12s.
Photo courtesy of Universal