Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published September 28th 2013
A classic sporting rivalry is brought to the screen
Director: Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde
If, like me, you're not into car racing, you may be asking yourself in the opening stretch of Rush why you're watching it, but slowly the drama draws you in. It may not convert you to a Formula One fanatic, but for two hours at least you'll be glad you went for a spin.
Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. Opponents and opposites.
Anyone who has seen the excellent doco, Senna, will know that Ayrton Senna's death in the early 80s changed the safety regulations in Formula One racing. Up to that point it was far more dangerous than it is now. This is reinforced in the opening minutes of Rush when we learn that on average two drivers from a field of about 25 die each year while racing.
Rush centres on the rivalry between two drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and in particular the intense battle to become the 1976 world champion. Like all good sporting rivalries, the contrasting styles and personalities between the two, fascinated the public as much as their skills on the track. Hunt was handsome, charismatic and hedonistic, a true international playboy, while Lauda was introverted, abrasive and had a none too pleasing appearance made even more unattractive after a crash left him with extensive burn scars to his face and head.
James Hunt, the last of the international playboys.
For non rev-heads, another reason you may feel a sense of trepidation at the start is that neither of the two protagonists are particularly likeable. While Lauda is established at the start as being an 'asshole' - for all his charisma, James Hunt is no more redeeming. He comes across as arrogant, shallow and self-absorbed. Slowly though, as the remarkably dramatic events of the 1976 season unfold, the two opponents learn to respect each other and in turn our appreciation of them grows.
Chris Hemsworth certainly looks the part as Hunt, an imposing hunk of a man that no woman can resist, but Daniel Bruhl has the much meatier role as Lauda, an intensely focussed individual whose motivation knows no limits. Screenwriter Peter Morgan, who has already given us such larger than life personality conflicts as Frost/Nixon and The Queen has such a gift for limning real events into taut, essential storytelling.
Although there's not much room for the other actors to give light and shade to their performances, Alexandra Maria Lara makes a big impression every time she's on screen. Those big, expressive eyes of hers convey more than a thousand words could say.
Alexandra Maria Lara conveys much that is not scripted with those big, expressive eyes.
Unsurprisingly, given the backdrop, the cinematography and editing are extraordinary. Although Ron Howard is ostensibly interested in the drama of the characters, he's an excellent director of action, and the driving set-pieces are brilliant. Whether the camera is strapped to a car, inside a helmet trained on the driver's face, or suspended from above, the visuals are thrilling and are worked in seamlessly with archival footage.
If you're unfamiliar with the events that took place in the 1976 Grand Prix F1 season, then you'll be amazed at what unfolds before your eyes. The results are unexpected and rewardingly complex. And if you do know, you're likely to be highly satisfied with how well the story is brought to the screen.