PLOT: Two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard takes the daunting task of covering the nearly decade-long rival between British Formula 1 racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria’s Niki Lauda’s (Daniel Brühl) race to become world champions. From tracks in Italy to Japan, press rooms to extravagant parties, Hunt and Lauda risked death, fortune and fame in the 1970s and became international sensations in the process. With an undeniably effective immediacy, “Rush” is a solid, but rather cold, biopic about two equally detached personalities
REVIEW: The two actors make for incredible sparring partners, each one fighting to be the world champion. Of the two however it is Brühl who gives the more complex and moving performance. His blonde-haired, good-looking enemy might be far more colorful and exciting, yet there is something about rooting for the underdog.
The story revolves around the 1970’s Formula One champions James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl) who were bitter rivals. It follows their intense competitive spirit as they fight to be number one. While Hunt cavorts and enjoys the wild life, as well a rocky marriage to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), Lauda plots every course and calculates each move he makes. It is an interesting dynamic, especially since there is no clear hero in the proceedings. Even when a terrible accident strikes leaving one of the players badly burned, that edge between the two is never lost.
There is something thrilling about a great racing flick. The revved up engines and the sheer power of the sport is one of awe and fear. Director Ron Howard manages to present the thrill of it all while still creating a worthy drama between the two men. The many shots of tires speeding along the pavement or the explosive terror when the cars smash against each other are deftly handled by the director. My only minor complaint is that he sometimes gets a little too visually creative which at times takes focus away from what is an already exhilarating subject. To an extent, Howard is at his best when he is off the track. Even still, the racing sequences are great.
As far as the performances go, you can’t do much better than Hemsworth. He is a major movie star that can act. The beauty of his turn as Hunt is that he is given the opportunity to play that racing sensation in all its glory. He is clearly relishing this vibrant real life figure and it works. And then there is Brühl. I’ve been a fan of this Spanish born, German speaking actor for a very long time. From his work in GOOD BYE LENIN! and THE EDUKATORS to his terrific performance in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, it is not at all surprising that he is phenomenal here. With this as well as the upcoming THE FIFTH ESTATE, this may be the year that he really becomes a major star here in the States.
The screenplay by Peter Morgan (FROST/NIXON, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) smartly examines the fierce battle with a fresh perspective. Occasionally it falls into the minor bouts of sports movie cliché yet it manipulates the audience in an engaging way. The challenge of showcasing both characters evenly throughout the course of the film is commendable. It is near impossible to decide who to root for as both Hunt and Lauda are not just the antagonist and the protagonist… They are each a little bit of both. While personally I could relate to Brühl’s more tightly wound take on Lauda, every so often you’d find that Hunt seemed the better man. Credit should be given to Morgan as well as the two talented actors involved for making it work.
RUSH is one hell of a biopic. With both of the lead actors giving terrific performances, you may find it difficult to decide who to cheer for as they reach the finish line. If you don’t know the history it makes it all the better, even if it is occasionally predictable. The score by Hans Zimmer is perfectly suited with Howard’s style. And of course, Howard maneuvers through the material taking every advantage of the sleek and sexy decade while still offering the intense thrill of the race. RUSH is exactly that, it is a super-charged RUSH of a biopic that will thrill audiences whether they are familiar with James Hunt and Niki Lauda or not.