RUSH Movie Review
There have been many great sporting rivalries throughout history – Ali v Frazier, Sampras v Agassi, Senna v Prost – but arguably one of the most compelling was that of Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Two young Formula One drivers who fought through vehicle trouble, dangerous weather and even a horrendous crash to get their hands on the title, their battle for the world championship gripped fans and skeptics alike. Now, the story has been dramatized for the big screen by racing aficionado and Oscar winning filmmaker Ron Howard in his latest release Rush.
After a quick prologue set on the day of Lauda’s aforementioned crash at the German Grand Prix which nearly claimed his life, Rush begins with the pair’s first race. Fresh-faced, ambitious and enjoying the thrill, James Hunt (an excellent Chris Hemsworth) has been working on the circuit – and beating any challenger who comes along – for some time when we meet him. However, the foundation of their intense conflict is instigated when the then-unknown Niki Lauda (the always brilliant Daniel Bruhl) gives Hunt the closest race of his short career.
In the years that came, Hunt and Lauda’s opposition only deepened as together they rose through the ranks to become the two greatest drivers in the sport. On the track, their battles were neck-and-neck and wrought with peril and suspense. Off the track, they fought with words in heated press conferences and passionate pre-race ball breaking. It all culminated in the 1976 battle for the world championship, which would solidify the winner as the greatest racer on the planet. But even as they became greater enemies, between the pair was an unconventional friendship – a mutual respect and understanding that drove them closer.
Wearing his passion for Formula One on his sleeve, Ron Howard does a stellar job of capturing the racers’ on-track conflict in Rush. As Hunt and Lauda burn corners at breakneck speeds, their cars dangerously weaving in and out of one another, he manages to build as much suspense from these sequences as any Hollywood action movie. Hans Zimmer’s thumping score, Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley’s fast-paced editing, and the dynamic cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle only add to the intensity of these moments.
It’s when the racers exit their cars that Rush’s weakness begins to show: the lacklustre screenplay from The Queen and Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan. While most sports movies only use the actual sport as a vehicle to drive the drama, such is not the case here. Much emphasis, instead, is placed on the mechanics of Lauda and Hunt’s rivalry – signing with their respective teams, rising through the leagues, struggling with their cars, etc. – and not on what actually fuelled the competition. Those who are interested in F1 will likely not mind, but those with no passion for the sport may find themselves searching for more in Rush.
That’s not to say Rush is entirely depthless though. On the contrary, there are brief moments in which the film fascinatingly strives to examine the souls of Hunt and Lauda – why they might have been driven to such extreme, potentially fatal lengths to beat one another. It’s at these moments that Rush goes beyond simply being a well-constructed re-telling of the rivalry to rivetingly deconstruct two men so determined to leave a legacy, to make their mark, that they would square up with death. But, sadly, these moments are indeed fleeting.