Rush Review

Posted: November 16, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews
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By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

I’m by no means a sports fan.  At all.  I mean, sure, if I’m watching a fun or exciting game, I’ll get into it, but I don’t follow teams nor do I get obsessed when the start of any given “season” comes by.  On average, I don’t know a lot about nearly any sport there is.  And I certainly know nothing about the sport of car racing, much in the same way I know jack shit about baseball statistics, and contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t particularly care for 2011’s Moneyball all that much.  However, the difference between that borderline snooze fest and Ron Howard’s Rush is that this film, set in the more high-stakes atmosphere of the Formula 1 racing event, contains a whole heap of excitement that successfully helps bring in any novice to this sport and gives them a wholly immersive experience that lives up to the title.  To be quite frank, I found this to be the best sports movie to come along since David O. Russell’s The Fighter.

The focus here are two men, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), real-life Formula 1 racers/enemies and this film chronicles their rivalry from 1970 to 1976.  Hunt is an experienced racer with dreams of making it big by eventually winning the Formula 1 racing event, dreams that are threatened by the arrival of Lauda, an expert driver who seems to have come out of nowhere and possesses the same goal.  Lauda is very much a gearhead, and knows how to calibrate his cars so that they’ll go the fastest.  This leads to plenty of early victories for him, as well as a growing resentment from Hunt, as well as a good amount of flared tempers between the two both on and off the track as the build-up to the championship race carries on.

Folks, Rush is what happens when you do a sports movie right.  Sure, you can get good ones out of the tried-and-true formula of the underdog player or team having to rise up against the all-star and overcome specific obstacles in the process, but most of the great sports films are the ones that go beyond that.  One could argue that there’s something of an underdog element in Rush, but that’s not what the movie is about.  Instead, it’s more about the idea that the drive for success (no pun intended) can ultimately have its costs to those who possess that drive, and Ron Howard along with screenwriter Peter Morgan are clearly more interested in exploring how it affected the real-life Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, as well as what the idea of success meant to each of them.  And you know what?  That works.  Not only does it provide Rush a more gripping tone, but also an emotional undercurrent that is unique to other sports films.  Plus, unlike the boring-as-hell Days of Thunder, Rush is a racing movie that’s exciting to watch, and as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it’s very appropriately-titled.

Now, what is that unique emotional undercurrent, you may ask?  It’s something that comes about from Peter Morgan’s engrossing script, wherein we come to care about not just one, but both of these racers throughout the course of this film.  There’s no clear-cut “good guy” or “bad guy” here, simply two men driven by their hunger for victory, and each for their own reasons.  Victory/success is the prevalent theme throughout Rush, but not just professional victory – personal victory as well.  James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s competition with each other stretched beyond the racing track, and this rivalry is really the centerpiece of the film, as well as being the most interesting aspect of it.  Hunt and Lauda each represent two different aspects of being a competitor in not just racing, but any sport, really.  Hunt is in it for the glory and recognition, motivated by courage and driven by passion and certainly not afraid to take risks if he has to.  In contrast, Lauda is all about the strategies, the rules and making sure his car is calibrated the best.  Hunt is the kind of guy you’ll find partying the night away and living the life of a rock star while Lauda is someone who’d rather stay holed up in his room studying and preparing while the “cool kids” go out and play.  Both men have their good and bad qualities, but again, this movie wisely doesn’t take sides.  Hunt and Lauda are each developed as characters equally.  Even if each of them exhibits rather unenviable characteristics from time to time, Peter Morgan’s writing is so strong here, that both men manage to become sympathetic as the film goes on.  Whenever something bad happens to either one, it feels no less effective.  And by the time the Third Act comes along, we as the audience are in the unique position where we want to see them both win.

The performances by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl deserve just as much credit for that, because as much as the script manages to find ways to elicit sympathy, it’s the acting that really takes it the extra mile.  This may just be the finest work of Hemsworth’s career so far.  He finds and maintains just the right balance between cocky and determined, highlighting the aspects of James Hunt that made him endearing at the end of the day.  Hemsworth’s very strong performance as Hunt proves that he doesn’t need a huge hammer with him at all times in order to be captivating.  Daniel Bruhl is proving to be a strong actor between this and The Fifth Estate (yes, I saw that movie).  As Niki Lauda, Bruhl embodies a cocky arrogance that would normally make us resist such a character, but he still has just enough traces of humanity in him to keep him from possibly becoming an outright antagonist.  To be fair, both Hunt and Lauda are assholes, and not just on the track, but every asshole can have their better moments.  In Rush, when those moments come, Hemsworth and Bruhl don’t just make them moments — they make them moments.

Ron Howard deserves credit for how he handles not just the emotional beats, but also the racing scenes themselves.  These scenes are visceral and intense, and Howard really makes you feel like a driver yourself, because there’s a definite aura of danger at any minute.  I know that I definitely almost forgot to breathe during a few of the film’s more climatic races.  These scenes are also aided by yet another terrific score by Hans Zimmer.

All in all, Rush is a great movie and among the year’s best for me so far.  It rises above the usual sports movie clichés and delivers an exciting and involving look at not just an interesting real-life rivalry, but also the costs of being so success-driven, and the rush waiting for those who achieve it.


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