Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Daniel Bruhl (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama, Sport
Rush tells the story of the great Formula 1 rivalry between Nicki Lauda and James Hunt. Hunt, the womanising daredevil, versus Lauda, the precise Austrian. No doubt a great chalk and cheese match up.
Off the back of the small-time success of Senna, a must-see documentary about the the career of F1 great Ayrton Senna, Ron Howard (director of Rush) has jumped at the chance to make another true F1 story on the big screen, this time in dramatic, narrative form rather than documentary.
Ron Howard has good form in nail-biting true stories, sporting or otherwise, with Cinderella Man and Apollo 13 in his back catalogue. In the former, a boxing movie, we scream for Russell Crowe’s main character to land the punches in the final fight, willing on our hero. Howard, in Rush, hasn’t used the skills he clearly displays in such films. He strays from his well praised template, which becomes Rush’s biggest flaw.
Despite the true story of Brit versus Austrian seemingly lending itself well to a dramatic plot of good versus ‘bad’, whatever the outcome, Howard instead plumps for a two-sided approach. He appreciates and reproaches each driver equally, and the story never allows you to cheer for one or the other. It isn’t so much that both drivers are equally likeable, it is more that they are equally dislikeable; Hunt with his cocky, boozy James Bond shtick, and Lauda with his anal, introvert, focused manner. In any other film, perhaps beneath the umbrella of a true story, Hunt would hands-down be the hero, with his flowing locks and enviable good looks. But Howard crushes these ideas, often showing Hunt to be a bully to Lauda, calling him a rat due to his bucked teeth, while backed up by his posse. The hero rarely, if ever, has a gang, so the fact that the obvious hero in Hunt has one while Lauda is an individual fighting for himself, is confusing from the get-go to the audience. Furthermore, Lauda lends voiceover to crucial parts of the story, making you think it’s his journey we are on, but you can’t quite stick to him as your hero with his aforementioned party-pooper personality. So you are left with either two people to cheer, or more realistically, no one; wanting both to win, and at the same time neither. Ron Howard, the crème de la crème of sporting movie directors after the brilliant Cinderella Man, surely knows better? Apparently not.
With that out of the way, it must be said that Hemsworth as Hunt, but especially Daniel Bruhl as Lauda, give great performances, showing all of their characters’ faults and redeeming features as they ride the hero merry-go-round, swapping which is the audience’s favourite multiple times throughout the film.
It also must be said that the film looks fantastic, bearing the right amount of 70’s sheen and ragged F1 in-car chaos. This is all credit to Anthony Dod Mantle no doubt, the director of photography on this film who is best known for creating the visceral look of most Danny Boyle films, most notably 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire.
Whether or not it reflects the world of F1 honestly and with justice is another discussion. Yes, the races are visceral, but the medium of film requires them to last under five minutes, with sometimes many summaries coming in a one minute montage, meaning you miss the 60/70 lap ebb and flow, the minute tweaks and the car/driver bond. This is something that can’t be rectified due to time constraints, and for that reason it surely couldn’t be done much better than it is in Rush, but it is just to be noted that racing of any form is forever to be doomed to being thinly represented on film, and that F1 fans coming to see Rush may not get all about the sport that they love. This is to the cause of making it interesting and exciting for all viewers, even those with no F1 interest or affiliations, which it surely will be.
Summary: Rush is an enjoyable, visceral romp from the crowd-pleaser Ron Howard, although one that is slightly hampered by its confusion over who we should be cheering for. Therefore, it leaves your blood pumping in the final race but not your heart screaming.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5