Rush: A high-speed journey into the glory days of Formula One

Movies

Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Stars: Chris Helmsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde

Formula One motor racing is safer than ever.  Crashes are rare and fatalities are almost non-existent.   The last driver to die in a Grand Prix was the irreplaceable Ayrton Senna, who sadly lost his life in Monaco in 1994.

The majority of fans no doubt welcome this new safety, but many believe much of the magic has been lost.   There have been no great rivalries for years; no characters divide the public’s opinion week in, week out – the sport has become boring.  Things were different in the 1970s, when the subjects of Ron Howard’s new biopic, Rush were engaged in one of the most thrilling duels the sport will ever see.  Rush tells the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

The film begins with Hunt (Chris Helmsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Brühl) starting their careers in Formula Three.  The polar nature of their characters is instantly visible.  Hunt is arrogant and reckless, with a frightening disregard for his own health.  Lauda is calculating and robotic – he’s Austrian.   We follow them on their journey into Formula One, where in 1976 they go wheel-to-wheel in one of the greatest battles in Formula One history.

Brühl is superb as Lauda, he brilliantly plays a man who is constantly battling his emotions and the urge to drive faster, in favour of relative safety.  As for Helmsorth,  I’ve seen trees less wooden.  His job of portraying the hot-headed Hunt was far less complex than Bruhl’s, but watching each scene I couldn’t help the feeling that he was going to pull out a giant hammer and fly home to Asgard, can acting be zero-dimensional?  Perhaps he was cast for his physical resemblance to James Hunt, which is remarkable; indeed all of the main characters are nearly identical to their real life counterparts.

Hunt and Lauda in their racing days
Hunt and Lauda in their racing days

The actual race sequences are breath-taking, with the editors deservedly winning a BAFTA for their efforts.  However the script is clichéd and perhaps lacks authenticity (something tells me the Austrian Lauda never said “stop busting my balls!”), but it is a Ron Howard movie after all – I expected Gorgonzola and was pleasantly surprised to be served a mild Gruyere.

This film about how far one is willing to go in order to achieve their ambitions, and at what cost, is enjoyable and quite exciting, but the director has been a little predictable.  I just hope that if a movie is ever made about the rivalry between the great Ayrton Senna and his French adversary Alain Prost, Ron Howard isn’t in the driving seat.

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