Academy Award winning director Ron Howard returns to the big screen with high intensity action-drama Rush, that follows the rivalry of two Formula One giants James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) during the 1970’s. Howard and writer Peter Morgan manage to capture expertly the realities of F1 at that time, but are also able to humanise a sports film in a way many in the past have struggled. This is so much more than just a film about racing; it is a tale of two big characters which spawns a heated rivalry, but which ultimately reaches a level of mutual respect.
Rush documents both drivers’ rise to F1 and the pairs contrasting attitudes to not just the sport, but life in general. Hunt, played superbly by Hemsworth, is a handsome playboy who is willing to risk anything to win. In contrast, Lauda is far more methodical. The Austrian is meticulous in terms of tactics and preparation, believing knowledge is the power to going faster, and ultimately winning more races. However different they may seem on the face of it, both men share the extreme will to win and the arrogance to get them there.
The most pleasing aspect of Rush it is far from being superficial. Unlike most sport-based features, it goes deeper than the glitz and glam surrounding the characters that looks so aesthetically agreeable on screen. We discover the dangerous nature of racing at that time, as covered so brilliantly by the portrayal of Niki Lauda’s near fatal crash during the 1976 season. Howard looks at the sport, but often delves deep into the souls of the two men. Far from just seeing the delights of victory, we witness both men in turmoil. The dark side of Hunt, like his battle with drink and depression, as well as his short-lived marriage to model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) are covered, whilst Lauda’s fight to get back into the car after the life-threatening accident in 1976 is given much screen time.
You do not have to like F1 to get something out of this film. It is as much a character-based film as it is a sports movie, which makes it not just easy on the eye, but a very engaging, thought-provoking watch. Hemsworth deserves praise for his performance as Hunt, but even his excellence does not quite reach the same levels as the brilliant straight edged Daniel Brühl who won, quite rightly, so much praise from the man he portrayed. One of only few criticisms you could aim at the film would be in regards to the final scene. The relationship between both men had clearly grown into the realms of respect, but the final exchanges between the men seemed to be far too nice, giving the film too much of a clean, nicey nice ending to what was otherwise a very gritty, edgy and engaging spectacle.