It’s rare that you wish for a film to be longer when it already clocks in at just over 2 hours, but it’s a rare occurrence that happens when watching Rush. Rush is latest from award-winning director Ron Howard, who reunites with Frost/Nixon screen writer Peter Morgan. It tells the story of the real-life encounter between two illustrious Formula 1 drivers: the flamboyant, British lothario James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the determined Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The film focuses mainly on events during the 1976 Grand Prix but we are also given a rare insight into their backgrounds and contrasting lifestyles.
The scalding rivalry between the two drivers is present from the moment their eyes first meet in a Formula 3 race to the Japanese Grand Prix six years later, which makes for a thrillingly tense finale. Make no mistake though, this is not a straight-forward narrative of winners and losers. The film does do well to play with our sympathies, especially following Lauda’s horrific accident and the harrowing scenes that unfold thereafter. By giving both characters fairly equal screen time, showing them on and off the track and exposing their public and private lives, Rush ensures that both drivers are deserving of our attention and appraisal.
The make-up department didn’t have to work too hard on regular leading man, Chris Hemsworth: transforming from blonde, long-haired hammer-wielding demi-god, Thor, to blonde, long-haired frivolous, pleasure-seeking F1 driver. He proves that despite his Adonis-style exterior and superhero status, he can pull off a convincing acting performance. Though Hemsworth is pushed forward on promotional material, the film belongs to breakthrough actor, Daniel Brühl, whose painstakingly accurate portrayal of Lauda makes him a serious Oscar contender. Visually, the film is flawless. The recreation of racing in the 1970s is impressive, leaving an uncompromised, authentic representation of the period. Incredible sound effects add to the electric atmosphere and thrill of the race. Only vibrating chairs could have bettered the cinematic experience of Rush.
Films about sport seldom capture the imagination of the wider public, but this is not a really a film about Formula 1. This is an inspiring tale about rivalry and an unlikely friendship that formed between two racing car drivers that pushed each other to the absolute limits mentally and physically. Hunt and Lauda become consumed by sheer determination to defeat their opponent and become world leaders in their art. I was barely a year old when James Hunt died of a heart attack aged 45. Likewise younger generations are unlikely to have encountered the Hunt-Lauda story, so this dramatization serves as a much-needed insight into the lives of these professionals and the thrilling world and forgotten past dangers of Formula 1. The film certainly compelled me enough to prompt some research into the dramatic events of that particular racing season.
‘The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel’ is just one of the thought-provoking lines uttered in the film, but it seemed that Ron Howard and his team maybe got too comfortable in the driving seat. Delving deeper into the minds of his protagonist drivers – perhaps through childhood experiences – would have made this a grittier tale by exploring the underlying reasons for their unrelenting pursuit of podium finishes. Ultimately, this glamorous dramatization crosses the finish line achieving what it set out to: the Hunt-Lauda story is reignited for a new generation and invites us to realise the true meaning of sacrifice and drive.