When Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) isn’t constrained by the writings of Dan Brown he can come up with some truly spectacular films – Rush is one such example. Based on the rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Rush is Howard’s best work since Apollo 13. It’s also one of the year’s strongest films, boasting a powerful story that’s well acted and executed with remarkable technical precision.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Cabin in the Woods) is perfect as the audacious and brash Hunt, who has something to prove by making it to Formula One and winning the World Championship. In this role Hemsworth escapes his Shakespearian thunder god and reveals a wider range that makes him one to watch in the future.
Opposed to Hunt is Lauda (Daniel Brühl; Inglourious Basterds), whose cold and calculating manner immediately puts him at odds with the blond-haired Briton. It’s a match made in heaven (or hell), as in many ways history has served up two real-life characters who are perfect foils for one another, akin to the best rivals in fiction à la Holmes and Moriarty or Batman and the Joker.
Brühl is a revelation, given the nigh-impossible task of bringing to life an individual who’s well known and still very much alive – and yet his performance as Lauda is pitch perfect. The supporting cast is adequate but not particularly noteworthy, although the film finds more than enough fuel in the dynamic between its two leads.
Howard injects the character study and drama of Peter Morgan’s (Frost/Nixon) screenplay with some impressively staged setpieces, drawing on key races and events from the 1976 F1 season. As someone who’s not a fan of motorsport and didn’t know much about these characters and their history before seeing Rush, I was on the edge of my seat during these sequences as I genuinely didn’t know what would happen. Howard amps up the tension and intensity something ridiculous, making Rush the only film so far this year that’s actively made me lean forward in anxiousness and dread only to then sink bank into my chair in exasperation.
And that’s what’s great about Rush – it’s a historically authentic and faithful account of two iconic characters from the world of F1 while simultaneously being incredibly accessible for people like me who don’t give two hoots about the sport. It’s a provocative character piece and an action thrill ride, equal parts enlightening and cathartic as it is fast and furious. What a rush!
Rush is an accessible and compelling telling of the rivalry between motorsport’s James Hunt and Niki Lauda.