Almost 12 years ago, I saw Renny Harlin’s popcorn film “Driven”, a film about Formula One racing. While I thought it wasn’t terrible, the screenplay by Sylvester Stallone was a little too easy with themes that proved too cliché especially when it came to sports movies. There was just so many things that it could’ve done better but it just fell a little too short. Well, director Ron Howard, whose shining moments in filmmaking may have to be the award-winning A Beautiful Mind (for which he won best director), Cinderella Man, Backdraft, Cocoon and Apollo 13 aims to go a deeper into the lives of these competitors with “Rush”.
1976. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a hotshot race driver with more guts than brains, but he is very talented. He takes life as if each day is the last day of his life. Austrian driver Nikki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is a calculating technical genius on the race track and even behind the scenes, that he managed to break into the Formula 1 circuit even before Hunt despite his wins in the minor racing circuits. Their approach to life, and to the sport that they both love births a rivalry that extends further than anyone would expect.
By adapting the story of the 1976 Formula 1 season that takes its focus on the rivalry between drivers James Rush and Niki Lauda, Ron Howard had created a film that feels very authentic and creates an almost natural symbiotic relationship between its central characters. The themes of silent respect, unspoken admiration, pride and just how someone could bring the best of another comes forth as the film’s central focus. The screenplay by Peter Morgan keeps things pretty grounded, and keeps the actual rivalry the main driving force of the film. By developing how and what caused such a rivalry, the script had sidestepped the issue of having two main characters, that one character could end up being better written than the other. Ron Howard’s direction took careful maneuvers not to focus too much on one or the other’s personal life, but rather gave glimpses, and by doing so Howard and Peter Morgan came together with a script that exposes what made up each man, just how their hearts dictated the way they raced, and just how they thought of the other. From a little annoyance, there came a little hatred, then came respect and perhaps even a little concern for the other.
The film does an incredible job defining the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda. It does this by creating a natural sense of ‘competition’ both on and off the race track. Their little philosophies, thoughts and approach to life becomes the driving force as the viewer becomes privy to the way they spoke and interacted, and just what the race circuit meant to both Hunt and Lauda. Hunt was portrayed as someone with a little more charm and personality; he likes to party and it can be argued that he is the more likable of the two at first look. Lauda may come off as a little of an asshole most of the time, but it is just that he is blunt, honest and very confident of his technical skills. The viewer sees things from both the characters’ eyes, and really, it became easy to root for both of them. You tend to care for both and Howard places the viewer in a position to care for the characters because of what they have seen and allows the viewer to decide for themselves as to whom they wish to root for.
Hemsworth did a great job as the brash James Hunt. He carried his character with confidence and maturity, and yet he had that charm that spoke a lot for his character’s edgy personality; something women found very attractive that most of the film’s sex and nude scenes had come about. I do have to say that Daniel Bruhl was terrific as Niki Lauda. I am not sure, while the film did focus on the rivalry, the Lauda character just came forth as the stronger character due to his experiences in the 1976 season. Bruhl was amazing in his portrayal, that I felt that he actually almost became Lauda. Alexandra Maria Lara proved very significant as Marlene Lauda in the screenplay, that despite her limited screen time, she made the Nikki Lauda character be a little more understood. Olivia Wilde was pretty low-key, and I was happy to see that her character’s relationship with Richard Burton did not play too much of a part in the script, but merely a testament to just how focused James Hunt was in moving life forward.
The cinematography and set pieces were incredibly effective in bringing the viewer into this place in time. It was easy to feel the soul of this timeline, seen through the costumes and the set designs, Howard made the viewer feel that they were living the scenes. The grainy photography aided in giving the film a sense of character, as if the scenes were being seen through the use of regular non-HD cameras. While the film is a movie about formula 1 race car drivers, Howard was careful not to create shots that felt too flamboyant. He films the races as if they were being seen through the eyes of an spectator or through the screen of a TV, and this aids in the promotion of realism in the scenes.
“Rush” is not a movie about cars or racing, but rather about two men who competed and lived their lives through the love of racing. It would be wise not to expect the film to have long racing sequences, since this is about the men behind the wheel. Ron Howard’s “Rush” is a sort of a biopic about two men whose rivalry proved personal and yet this rivalry became the very definition they sought. It was able to communicate just how something could create a man, and how something could drive someone to try even harder. It is a ‘coming of age’ story of a sorts, and as Lauda had said in the film “a wise man can learn a lot from his enemies, rather than a fool from his friends.” I could not agree more. Recommended. [4 Out of 5 Stars]
By Joan Alperin Schwartz Rush' directed by two time Academy Award winner ('Beautiful Mind', 'Frost/Nixon') Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan ('Frost/Nixon) depicts the intense rivalry between two Formula … more