In a rivalry between two Formula One racing drivers, who defy the odds and become champion? The man who utilises logic and science or the man with the hot head and the passion for speed?Based on true events, Rush explores the rivalry between two such drivers and brings the adrenaline of F1 to the big screen. My review after the jump.
It’s 1970 at the Crystal Palace race circuit in England and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) has just won a hotly contested Formula Race, beating talented Austrian driver Nikki Lauder (Daniel Brühl). Hunt’s driving was dangerous and aggressive and his attitude isn’t much better. Fueled by drinks and drugs and a desire to go fast, Hunt was willing to play dirty with his driving and his words to get the win. From that day a rivalry was born, between the calculated, incredibly intelligent Austrian and the head-strong, reckless Brit. Several years later the pair meet again, this time in the big leagues of the Formula One. The men are largely unchanged, with Lauder still focusing on science and discipline and Hunt on booze, women, speed and attaining glory (and the fame that came with it). Things come to a head in 1976, when the two men are both equipped with the best cars and the best teams in the game. With all things more or less even, who will win? The brains or the brawn?
Formula One was made for the big screen – there is speed, noise, drama, danger and all the testosterone that comes with it. There is nothing quite like the sound of a F1 car at full speed and boy oh boy, did it sound fabulous in Rush. The racing is easily the best aspect of the film. I could have watched those spectacular races for the entire film. What is it about that noise which is so fabulous? Along with the fantastic roar of the cars, was the remarkable score by Hans Zimmer, as well as some zippy 70s pop tracks by the likes of Bowie and Thin Lizzy. This is one of my favourite recent scores from the veteran composer; it’s surprisingly measured and rarely strays into ‘over-the-top’ territory. He manages to perfectly capture both the excitement of the race and the fear of that something could go wrong.
The racing is shot wonderfully, employing a variety of on-board cameras, to give the audience a taste of life in the fast lane. I loved some of the slow motion shots, and found the scenes shot in the rain to be particularly beautiful. Ron Howard started his career with cars (his début feature film was Grand Theft Auto) and they are something which he clearly understands. The attention to detail paid here was wonderful and will surely appease the most die-hard F1 fans. Perhaps the real achievement of this film is that Howard has created a racing film which is completely accessible for those with no knowledge.
Hemsworth and Brühl have been perfectly cast here – Hemsworth puts his charisma on full display, dazzling with his energy and smile, while Brühl’s measured coolness and calculated nature was extremely impressive. I particularly enjoyed the intense performance from Brühl, and it’s to his and the screenplay’s credit that you grow to admire his character more as the film progresses. It’s a shame then that the character’s rivalry didn’t quite match up to the intensity implied at the film’s beginning. I was unable to really buy into this film on an emotional level. Great rivalries stir great passion and great emotion, they toy with you and beg you to invest. I didn’t get any of this in Rush. Sure I felt worried at times by some of the antics in the race, and in the latter stages I did feel frustration on behalf of one of the characters, but the pay off wasn’t there. I think the film’s extremely heavy focus on personality off the racetrack took away from the events on the track. By focusing too much on personality, the screenplay took far too many liberties with the use of clichés and stereotypes, to illustrate how vastly different the two men were. The film also wasted the female characters, who were little more than distractions for the two men.
Rush is worth seeing for the racing alone. There is nothing quite like watching those incredible machines hurtle around the track, creating one of the most glorious, visceral sounds there is. A worthy addition to the long line of films about fast machines and the people who race them.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Ron Howard
Writer(s): Peter Morgan
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 123 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: October 3 2012