Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring Chris Helmsworth and Daniel Bruhl
Out on general release now.
Rush, which came out in cinemas last week to pretty good reviews, is a film which re-creates the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
I don’t really care for Formula One and I don’t really understand anyone that does. Motor racing isn’t a sport. It’s a bunch of spoiled, over-indulged, pampered, upper class brats driving terrifyingly planet-bothering cars around expensive race tracks in cities all over the world. Cheered on by tedious men with too much money and too little imagination who are prepared to sacrifice huge amounts of cash and time away from their families to stand in all weathers to catch milliseconds of cars going around in a circle that they could watch at home for free with a bag of Doritos on their lap and a warm lager in their hand. Formula One teams are either financially backed by braying, over-privileged yahoos or sponsored by rapacious tobacco and fuel companies hell bent on wrecking the environment as we know it. Either that or condoms.
The Formula One message is clear. We’re all going to die, there’s no point in reproducing as a species so let’s just drive quickly and fuck.
What Ron Howard (Frost / Nixon & A Beautiful Mind) and writer Peter Morgan (The Queen & Frost / Nixon) have the nerve to do is to take this simple and selfishly atavistic philosophy of hedonistic excess and expect us to believe they can make a two hour piece of exciting spectacle and engaging drama out of it? Pfft! But you know what? That’s exactly what they’ve gone and done and done it very well indeed.
Rush concentrates on the ferocious 1970s racing rivalry between the smooth, posh-boy recklessness of James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the coldly analytical and joyless Teutonic knight of the race track, Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). For the first half hour or so the film was every bit the fan boy cliche I thought it was going to be, but that’s just Ron Howard lulling you into a false sense of predictability. It’s like he knows what your thinking and he’s saying yeah, Formula One is rubbish, but stick around for a while, this is a really great story. Hemsworth and Bruhl are exceptional in their respective roles of Hunt and Lauda. Hemsworth as James Hunt, every inch the bratty and shallow Adonis-with-a-mean-streak you expect him to be and likewise Daniel Bruhl gets the tone of Lauda as the cold perfectionist. Where Hunt is a thrill-seeking part animal Lauda is meticulously forensic about himself, his car and the race. Curiously enough, it is through the apparently emotionless Lauda that the real heart and warmth of the film lies. As cold and forensic as he is, it’s Lauda that you warm to. As humourless as he is, it’s Lauda that makes you smile and as dispassionate as he is, it’s Lauda’s wedding scene that is the most back-handedly romantic.
The race scenes are suitably impressive and for those that don’t remember how the whole Grand Prix rivalry turned out in the end, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Not all the scenes work, especially the ones where Hunt and Lauda are exchanging dialogue, but maybe that’s what a true clash of personalities is really all about, they just don’t fit together. It’s the ￼scenes where they are talking about each other and not to each other that work best, and of course where their personalities clash most, on the race track.
On one level, Rush is 70s soft core porn for the Top Gear generation, but it is also a slick and crafted piece of cinematic engineering, immensely enjoyable and genuinely exciting. Watching it didn’t make me any more interested in Formula One, or even manage to convince me it’s a real sport, but it engaged and entertained me for 123 minutes, which is about 122 minutes more than any motor race could ever do.
All words by Robert Pegg. More of Robert’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.