Review: Rush

rush

Sport often makes the basis of the some fairly decent films; Chariots of Fire and the Rocky films at the drama end of the spectrum, Cool Runnings and The Mighty Ducks at the other and, more recently, there has been Moneyball, which received high critical acclaim. However, motorsport has produced less films, and hardly any that are any good. Just look at 2001’s Driven, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Sylvester Stallone. A possible exception to this being 1966’s Grand Prix, starring James Garner, however it has dated badly.

Ron Howard has directed so many classic films in the past it would be pointless to list them all. Howard knows how to put a film together and sell it to a large audience, but will he be able to convert a film about a rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers in the 1970’s to the wider world, or will it be a flop only appealing to those who understand the sport and are already emotionally involved with the sport and its history?

As stated, this is the story of two rivals at the top flight of motor sport. One of them is James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), a British cad whose hard partying lifestyle completely mirrors his driving style, the other is Nikki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), a calculative Austrian whose life revolves around being the best by devoting his time to perfecting the car and looking after his body.

The focus of the story takes place during the season of 1976 where Hunt had finally bagged a drive for McLaren which afforded him the chance to challenge Lauda – the current title holder – for the World Championship. There is a little background story before this, but it is largely setting up both driver’s characteristics both about their racing, lifestyles and the way in which they treat women.

The film begins with Hunt walking into a hospital, barefoot and bleeding, to get patched up after a fight. Every woman in the room turns their heads to gawp as he is taken into a ward to be treated by a nurse. As she examines him she asks what happened to him, to which he replies he’d been in a fight with someone about their girlfriend. The nurse asks what he’d done and Hunt relies “I could show you, if you’d like?” Thus ensues some passionate sex scenes which will go over well with a female audience as well as a male one! Later in the film Hunt marries supermodel Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), whose brief role is largely two-dimensional in that she’s pretty much there for window-dressing who eventually leaves him for Richard Burton, after some alcohol fuelled verbal abuse from Hunt.

Lauda’s first interaction with his future wife, Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), is a lot colder, the straight-talking, sweary Austrian insults her driving and points out all the things that are wrong with her car. However, he shows that he cares much more for her than Hunt does for any of his relationships; even when he is being distant it is because he is trying to protect the relationship from the reality that he could die every time he gets in the car.

At the Belgian Grand Prix, at the Nürburgring, he comes very close to dying in a horrifying crash. Lauda suffered lethal burns to his head after trying to boycott the race due to the torrential rain which made driving around this formidable track extremely dangerous. This puts him out of the running for the title and nearly kills him; the burns were so bad he has to get his lungs vacuumed and a priest read him the last rites. All the while he watches Hunt close on him in the Championship and all the while he forces himself to get better. Within weeks he is back in his car and forces himself to defend his title despite the awful pain he is in.

This all sound terribly far-fetched, but remember that this is based very – scarily closely – on a true story and this makes Rush a totally compelling film that grips you from the moment you first hear an engine roar into life to the poignant ending where you discover that even though the two were bitter rivals they were good for each other and were actually closer than most perceived.

The thing that elevates this film beyond normal though is the soundtrack, the actual music is incidental, the pop songs used at from the time are evocative of the 70s and the orchestral score may as well not be there, so in the background is it. But the true triumph of the film is the sound of the engines mixed with the cinematography. This is a loud film when the racing is underway and the camera takes you right inside the exhausts and through the engines. At one point the point of view is that of the gun that takes the bolts from the wheels while they are being changed. This all adds to the electric feel of Formula 1 racing from that time when sex was safe and driving was dangerous.

Ron Howard has knocked this film out of the park, it is the best fictional film based on Formula 1, if not motor racing in general. It has just the right mixture of drama and racing and you really do feel for the characters and danger of the situations they’re in. The characters are unbelievably believable (racing drivers really did act this way in the sport’s heyday), with the exception of the female characters who are reduced to objects or worried sick about their spouses. However, this is a film set in the 70s and this is how women were seen, so I feel like this can slide.

If you are a Formula 1 fan, you’ll love this film. If not, you’re still going to get a well acted (Hemsworth’s accent aside), brilliantly written and awesomely scored and visually gorgeous film about two men at odds in a men’s world… oh, and you get to see Chris Hemsworth’s arse!

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