Directed by: Ron Howard
Many reviews for Rush will begin with, or at least include, the critic declaring a lack of interest or much knowledge in the area of Formula 1 racing. I wish I could be different, but I can’t. I sort of see the appeal, but have never gotten into it. Thankfully, Ron Howard’s latest doesn’t require or assume the audience to have knowledge of or an interest in the sport, just a desire to be entertained.
Written by Peter Morgan, the film depicts the real life rivalry between two F1 racers: James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth, and Austrian Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl. The plot is centred around the 1976 Formula 1 season and Lauda’s near-fatal crash in Nürburgring, but also delves a little into the personal lives of both racers, featuring Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara as Hunt and Lauda’s wives, respectively.
I think a lack of knowledge of the 1976 F1 season is actually a good thing, in terms of enjoying Rush. I had done a little Google-ing into the Hunt-Lauda rivalry, but did not actually know how it all played out. I don’t think I’ve ever been so engrossed in a “sports” film before. I use quotation marks, because I’m not entirely sure how much of a sports film it really is. But whatever genre you want to put it into, it is an excellent film. I think it could have gone wrong, it could have seemed too formulaic in terms of a biopic, or too dull to anyone who doesn’t really care about racing, but is actually the exact opposite.
The only thing about Chris Hemsworth’s performance I’m not so sure about is the accent. It’s a little too posh for him to pull off; it’s so obvious he’s putting it on, that it pulls you out of the film a little. Otherwise he does very well in making you sympathise with a character that is essentially, as Niki Lauda would put it, an asshole. But maybe he’s more likeable because of how abrasive Lauda is. Brühl’s performance is excellent, possibly better than Hemsworth’s. It could be that it is better written, as Peter Morgan knows Lauda, and had the advantage of being able to talk to him about what he was writing. The two actors play off each other well, and it would have been pretty interesting to see them to show a bit more of the supposed friendship Hunt and Lauda had, as well as the professional rivalry. Oliva Wilde as model Suzy Miller and Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene Knaus are both good, but don’t actually feature that much. Pierfrancesco Favino, an Italian actor who I think is pretty good, appears as Clay Reggazoni, Lauda’s Ferrari team mate. I could not figure out what was going on with his accent. It didn’t sound like a natural Italian accent on English, and it was not clear what accent exactly he was attempting to do.
It wasn’t a very big budget production, and so considering, the production value of the races is amazing. They clearly chose what was most important to show, and concentrated on making that good, which is always the right way to go. I particularly like the special effects shots of the engine at work. It wasn’t as gratuitous as the idea may sound. Hans Zimmer’s score is great, but I would not have guessed it was his work. The film works mainly because of how well it’s written, especially as the story is universally accessible, despite being about a sport not everyone is into, and Daniel Brühl’s performance. Peter Morgan himself has said how impressed he is with how closely Brühl has portrayed Lauda. Rush has to be, for me at least, one of the most genuinely exciting films of the year.