Movie Review: Rush

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Follows the rivalry between two Formula One drivers in the 1970s: James Hunt, the popular playboy, and the serious and businesslike Niki Lauda.

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Ron Howard, 2013

The film recreates the story of the two men from the time when they met as Formula Three drivers, but it opens and builds towards Lauda’s infamous accident, six years later, that left him scarred and more driven than ever. Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) go through individual ups and downs, eventually finding their way into Formula One, but after their first race it takes them a long time to race on equal ground again. Through various relationships (well, for Hunt, and one for Lauda), their animosity continues to grow, “busting each other’s balls” off the track and longing to face off on the track. They’re equally matched, Lauda’s dedication and skill against Hunt’s risk-taking, but a decision – against Lauda’s wishes – to race on a dangerous track in the rain causes a life-changing and terrible car accident.
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I was about half an hour into this movie when I realised with sudden clarity that I was watching a really good movie. I was completely engrossed in the story. It has an excellent balance of drama and humour, and of story and action. The race scenes are well-paced and exciting, focusing on the important stuff and skipping through when necessary. It’s unrelenting when it shows the unpleasant repercussions of such a dangerous lifestyles – Lauda’s medical procedures are hard to watch – but it gives you a sense of the excitement and the, er, rush of being a professional driver, of that which propels these two men in their pursuit of being the best. It looks terrific (and not just because of the shot of Chris Hemsworth’s butt). The racing scenes are good, but the movie is beautiful in other places too; its deep colour scheme is very effective, and it’s full of visual metaphors (a record that’s dropped off the needle, spinning aimlessly as Hunt searches for a drive; flames reflected in a window licking at Lauda’s face). The costuming is also a lot of fun, with certain photos of the real Hunt and Lauda recreated for the screen. This is really smart movie-making at its finest, and one of Ron Howard’s best – it lacks the preachiness of some of his earlier films.

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The real Niki Lauda and James Hunt – really good casting and make-up in this film, too.

Both Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth give astonishing performances. They’re perfectly cast; if Chris Hemsworth needed a movie to prove his acting mettle and still entertain the audience, this is it. Bruhl plays the prickly Niki Lauda with the right mix of uptight confidence; he has all the social skills of a sea anemone, but you can’t help liking the guy, who really is skilled and smart. Hemsworth is all cocky swagger and deep v-neck shirts as James Hunt, who is also flawed – hotheaded and a user of women – but remains likeable. The film is also sympathetic to all of its characters; there are no good or bad guys here, just people. James Hunt’s model wife, Suzy, is treated with dignity in spite of the ignominious way their relationship ends, with a scandal involving her and another celebrity couple. The respect for the characters creates a greater tension between the two racers; you really don’t know who you want to win for much of the movie. The pace falls off after the infamous race, with long scenes of Lauda’s recovery and an extended wind-down after the final race. Still, it’s a well-paced and clever biopic about two interesting men.

Rush on IMDb

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