Release Date: September 20, 2013 (Limited)
Opens in wide release September 27, 2013
Director: Ron Howard
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 7.5/10
There’s nothing better than a sports rivalry. Two opponents continuously nipping at each other’s heels during a long season competing for the same prize. For some it’s for the glory and for other it’s for the fame. At times it can get ugly, think Kerrigan and Harding. Other times it’s purely about the competitive nature of the sport, Jordan and Bird comes to mind. In the world of Formula One racing it’s likely that most people outside of the sport’s fans, which would include this viewer, wouldn’t be able to name one notable rivalry. They may recognize names such as Andretti or Fittipaldi but that’s about it. In the mid-seventies, there was a pretty significant rivalry between two racers that would capture the hearts and minds of racing enthusiasts around the world. Ron Howard’s Rush tells the true story of these two very competitive racers.
James Hunt is living the dream. He’s a British driver with Hollywood looks, a ladies’ man and has driving skills that have no equal. He is a man driven to win. Enter Niki Lauda. He’s an Austrian racer whose prickly, matter-of-fact persona leaves many to think him a cocky asshole. Despite this he actually knows his stuff and has the skills to back it up. After their first race together they immediately start referring to each other as “asshole.” Together they move up from Formula Three level racing to Formula One. The film chronicles the events of the 1976 racing season and the impact it had on the lives of the two racers and the people in their lives.
When thinking of racing films there are only a handful that immediately come to mind; the Steve McQueen vehicle Le Mans, John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix and Tony Scott’s Days of Thunder. While the latter was enjoyable popcorn hokum, Rush has more in common with the other two films with a few notable differences. Rush lacks the documentary like racing sequences of Le Mans but doesn’t get bogged down in the romanticism on display in Grand Prix. This film really focuses on the rivalry, the drive and the psychology behind wanting to get behind what one character describes as a “coffin”. While the driving sequences weren’t edge-of-your-seat enthralling the drama between the two leads more than makes up for it.
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are very good as Hunt and Lauda, respectively. Hemsworth is likable and the type of guy you’d gravitate towards. However Bruhl is the most interesting. Despite his demeanor you’re drawn to him. They both do a fine job of conveying and expressing what it is that keeps them getting into that cramped metal box that could mean the death of them. The chemistry between the two is very good and that does much to draw the viewer into their stories. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara appear as the ladies in their lives. Lara fairs better on account of having much more to do in the film than Wilde.
Featuring a screenplay by Peter Morgan that captures the essence of racing and the competitive nature of sports in general, Ron Howard’s latest proves to be one of the best films on the subject. While it may lack truly exciting racing scenes it more than makes up for it in the characters. Sadly Hunt has passed away, died of a heart attack at the age of 46, but Lauda is still with us. This is an entertaining two hours that will likely peak your curiosity to seek out more about this great sports rivalry.