Rated – R
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl
With the engines roaring and the tires burning on the pavement, this movie will pump plenty of adrenaline into your veins. Focusing in on the 1976 Formula One rivalry of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Rush plays out like a sports movie but is a lot more like a character study between the two main characters. James Hunt, the attractive brute that is beloved by the public; and Niki Lauda, the arrogant Austrian who has a unique knowledge of cars and racing. They couldn’t be more different and that makes for a great rivalry.
Chris Hemsworth plays James Hunt, but despite his face posted on every Rush poster, he’s not the sole main character. You can actually make a better argument that Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl, is the central character because of how he affects the major plot points much more. Bruhl gives an incredible performance as Lauda, one who isn’t likeable at the very least but is respected as film concludes. Interesting enough, Hunt isn’t entirely likeable either, as he jokes about the seriousness of the race and tends to throw away his talent with his lack of motivation.
As Hunt and Lauda frequently find themselves head-to-head during a race, they realize that their separate and personal lives affect each other in a similar way. With the competitive edge both of them have, Hunt and Lauda continually try to out-do one another. When Hunt attempts to distance himself from sleeping around with random women by marrying, Lauda meets and marries a woman of his own. But only one of these racers have their lives changed from the woman they marry.
Ron Howard does a great job at making Formula One racing exciting and understandable for those who aren’t familiar with the sport whatsoever. He sacrifices the strategy of racing for loud and fast scenes that occasionally end in a wreck. Screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) develops the characters so well, and is able to do so with a very comfortable pace for a suspenseful thriller as well as a drama.
The one element that distances Rush from other “sports” films is how it portrays the two rivals. Usually, there’s a clear good side that you root for and a villain that you root against, but here Hunt and Lauda simply have their different motivations that causes them to act and react the way they do. There’s no clear-cut underdog, nor is there that chilling moment when one side has finally won. Win or lose, it’s just another accomplishment, or bump in the road, in each other’s life. How you handle it really determines who’s champion.