MPAA Rating: R
for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use
Runtime: 123 minutes
Directed by: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl,
If anyone put slips of paper with different words on them into a fish bowl and ask Ron Howard to draw out one, he could make an interesting movie about it. Rush, Howard’s latest film, is based on the true story of the 1970s Grand Prix rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda -- a rivalry that lasted longer than the cheers from fans in the stands. What sounded at first like a cat fight at the local race track actually ends up as a good movie that includes drama, action, adventure, danger, and even romance.
The film starts when race car driver English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is slightly injured and shows up at a hospital where he seduces the nurse taking care of him. Guess there’s no question about that ego sitting on his James’ shoulder. However, it’s soon very clear in his Formula Three race car circuit he has no fear of dying. In fact he almost longs for it, saying “The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.”
James’ easy wins on the track along with his charisma -- as steamy with the ladies as those tires that have to be frequently changed -- encounter a challenge when the Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) -- driving for Ferrari -- shows up.
Niki is nothing like James. He has no personality. He’s driven, cantankerous, edgy, meticulous and completely focused. Instead of scanning the crowd to find the babes like James does, he uses that time to scrutinize a game plan.
Driving for Team McLaren James loses the first six races in several countries to Niki, which causes James’ demeanor to change. Point wise, they are both far ahead of any other driver, but that’s not good enough for James.
The rivalry continues with some great action scenes of races and close calls as filmed by Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire). The more James acts up, the more Niki digs in and beats him.
Peter Morgan has earned a huge reputation in writing biopics (Frost Nixon, The King of Scotland, The Queen). His screenplay of Rush is rich with elements that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
While the guys tune in to the race scenes spanning six years and two world-championship contests; the females have two romances to follow. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, Butter) does a great job portraying Suzy Miller Hunt, a famous model who won James away from all the girls, but quickly found out she was a neglected trophy wife. In real life Miller had a love affair with Richard Burton.
Niki was so into his cars that romance was far from his mind. But after offering a ride to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara – The Reader), a stranger he meets at a party, their chemistry takes them down the aisle of matrimony.
Hemsworth and Brühl offer Oscar-worthy performances in this film. Hemsworth is such a cad; many women will be so focused on him they miss the plot, while other wills want to throw tomatoes for him to wake up to the real world.
Brühl is exceptional as a man so in control one feels the ice drip off his shoulders. In the scene where he has a car crash and is badly injured, everyone fears he is dead. Instead, he goes in and out of consciousness, nearly blinded, and has burns on his face. Brühl projects the intensity of what his character went through, creating a mirror image of a rare person who could survive such an accident.
Races are nothing without sleek, fast cars and the roar of engines. I know; I raced for two years and took third place in the World Finals of the NHRA Stock car races in 1976. Every gun of the engine sends chills up the spines of drivers and spectators. Howard has missed none of the exhilarating moments in this amazing sport nor any movement and decision that creates the incredible fortitude of these characters.
I’m not sure how Howard (Angels & Demons, Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man) manages to create the total package with his films, but I’m glad he does. And Rush is among them. Luckily for film fans he has many projects in development.
Photo Credits: Jaap Buitendijk / Universal Pictures