I have never been a big car racing fan, but after viewing Ron Howard’s Rush, I need to take a gander at it. The film is amazing from start to finish. Rush tells the true story of the intense rivalry in the mid 1970’s between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt, the British superstar and Niki Lauda from Austria. Hunt with his brash playboy good looks, had talent for driving to match his personality. Niki Lauda was far more serious and his personality was as smooth as sandpaper. Lauda certainly did not make many friends, at first. Lauda had an intelligence for even creating his own car to make it lighter, faster and meaner. Hunt was not a dummy but spent most of his time off the track boozing and carousing with the females. They were from different backgrounds but one thing they had in common was their love to race and stare death in the face.
Rush is a technical masterpiece. The racing sequences seem to be as real as anything I have ever seen on film. Director Howard has tight shots of pistons pumping, helmet cams. tires smoking going at speeds that would make us reach for the barf bag. But writer Peter Moragn and Howard have dug deep into the psyche of the two drivers. Lauda, from a wealthy business family angered he did not come into the family business, takes a loan out, finds a crew with an okay car and a sponsor who needs a driver and some cash. He works his way up to Formula 1 racing and succeeds. Hunt is in full self destruction mode with booze, drugs and women BUT when it comes to racing he does not know the words ‘slow down’. Hunt is fully aware of himself as a person and a driver and makes no apologies for it, but when Lauda arrives, Hunt knows he had better get his game face on. Daniel Bruhl plays Lauda, whom they uneffectually refer to as ‘The Rat’ because of his unlikable personality and his overbite, but Lauda is publicly unaffected. Privately, he stews about it. “Happiness is the enemy,” He tells his new bride, Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara). “Once you have found happiness, you lose”. Credit Morgan’s script bristles with heart, intelligence and knowledge of the racing world but how men react to each other in competition, even at their darkest hour.
The acting is first rate with Bruhl as Lauda, Chris Hemsworth as Hunt. Their characters have real depth and we care about what happens to them, despite their flaws as people. They don’t like each other but have a mutual respect for one another. They sustain each other on and off the track both professionally and personally. The supporting cast is equally effective with Olivia WIlde as Hunt’s wife who quickly tires of his shenanigans and Alexandra Maria Lara who shines as Niki Lauda’s wife. She seems to understand him the best and loves him anyway, even when times are their worst. Pierfrancesco Favino is great as legendary driver, Clay Regazzoni, Lauda’s teammate. They don’t like each other much either, but they do grow to become friends, anyway and Hans Zimmer’s score is first rate, worth purchasing. It sounds different than his previous scores which seemed to repeat themselves. This score by Zimmer is fresh and exciting and keeps us invested in the action and the characters. Ron Howard (who will be directing Hemsworth in the upcoming Moby Dick film, Hearts of The Sea) shows us why he is one of Hollywood’s finest directors. Rush is exhilarating, intelligent and bold fun from start to finish and why this did not get more Academy attention last year is beyond me. Yes, Rush is THAT good.