SYNOPSIS: When we first meet Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) they are third stringers, talented Formula 3 drivers desperate for a chance to move up to the big show. Bad blood flows between the two, stemming back to an incident when Hunt edged Lauda off the track the first time they faced off against one another. Cut to the 1976 Formula 1 season. Lauda seems unstoppable, until tragedy strikes and Lauda is badly burned in a fiery crash. During his recuperation Hunt rises in the ranks, leading to a showdown, just 50 days after Lauda’s accident, for the World Championship at the Japan Grand Prix.
Richard: 4 Stars
Mark: 3 Stars
Richard: Mark, in some ways Rush is a paint-by-numbers story—Formulaic 1, maybe?—of opposites. Lauda and Hunt face off in predictable ways—the kind of thing we’ve seen in other sports films—but the film really takes off in its second half when the characters show some growth and the racing scenes take center stage. Director Ron Howard takes us inside the cars—literally. The races are exciting, visceral and as close as I’ll ever get to rounding a hairpin curve at super sonic speeds. What did you think?
Mark: The races are well done, no doubt. But there has to be more, and often there is. I loved the groovy Euro-Seventies milieu of the movie, the sensuality of the cars themselves, and the behind the scenes politics of the Formula 1 game. But the movie is episodic, and lacks-wait for the pun-narrative drive. Chris Hemsworth is an arrogant rogue in the Lightning McQueen mode, but Daniel Brühl plays a rival racer with the soul of an actuary. Neither of them are exactly nice guys; in fact, they’re a couple of grand prix.
RC: Ha! I liked Brühl. It would have been easy to play Lauda as a one-note egotist, but as his character finds his passion after the horrific accident, Brühl adds complexity, bringing him to life as a fully rounded man. Hemsworth hammers it home, proving there is more to him than playing superhero Thor in The Avengers movies but I really thought Brühl showed the most range.
MB: Burning half your face off will often give you that range. He goes from a man who won’t smile to one who can’t smile. But he’s also an unsympathetic martinet for a lot of the movie, and I kept waiting for Ron Howard to go back to the Hemsworth story, which was more fun. How do you think the movie stacks up against classic racing movies like Le Mans or Winning?
RC: I think it compares well to movies like Winning, Grand Prix and Days of Thunder, but the racing flick it has most in common with has to be Le Mans, just for sheer speed demon spirit. Remember Steve McQueen famous quote about racing? “Anything that happens before or after… is just waiting.”
MB: A good quote indeed. I thought Rush was a bit more realistic than the other movies, less romanticized, and had the balance of storyline and racing just about right.