Movie Review

Rush

"Based on a true story."
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Rush Movie Poster

US Release Date: 09/27/2013

Directed by:Ron Howard

Starring

Average Stars:
Reviewed on: September 30th, 2013
Chris Hemsworth in Rush.

Chris Hemsworth in Rush.

Not being a racing fan and having only vaguely heard of Niki Lauda and not at all of James Hunt, I wondered how much I would enjoy this film. Turns out, while I probably didn't get as much out of it as a real fan of the era might have, it is still a well shot and exciting film. An added bonus of my ignorance was that I didn't know how this true story would end.

The film tells the story of real life Formula One race car drivers, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. While it tells some of their back stories, the plot mainly centers on the year of their most famous rivalry, 1976. The script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) exaggerates their dislike for each other for dramatic effect. While they were opposites and on-track rivals, in real life they were much closer than is depicted, even sharing a flat together in London early in their career.

Hunt, played by Thor's Chris Hemsworth, is an upper class English driver who enjoys the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle that fame in the 1970s provided. The movie opens with him having sex with the nurse who's treating him for injuries caused by a jealous husband whose wife he'd recently slept with. The rest of the film, despite a short lived marriage, sees him getting out of his race car just long enough to have sex with a seemingly never-ending parade of beautiful women. The real-life Hunt claimed to have slept with over 5,000 women over the course of his life. His hard partying lifestyle would come back to haunt him though, and he passed away at the age of just 45.

Austrian Niki Lauda, as portrayed by Daniel Bruhl, is the polar opposite of Hunt. He's a driven, serious minded racer who is as unpopular as Hunt is popular. The one person who seems to truly enjoy his presence is his wife, whom he is devoted to. By 1976, when the main portion of the film takes place, he is the World Champion while Hunt is the upstart driver looking to unseat him.

Ron Howard directs with a confident hand. He captures the look of 1970s quite well, casting a nostalgic glow over many scenes. The race scenes are particularly well done, especially the crashes, which were a common feature of the time period when 1 or 2 Formula racers were killed each year.  Even a non-racing fan such as myself found them to be quite tense.

If the film has a weakness, it's that it never achieves a very high level of emotion. For most of the 1976 race season, Hunt and Lauda are neck and neck for first place. Lauda suffers a near fatal accident and even that doesn't stop him for long. But even when he makes his remarkable return it's not exactly a tearjerking or edge of your seat moment. There's no real impetus to root for either one of the racers over the other. It means that while the movie is entertaining on the surface, there's not much emotional depth underneath.

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Reviewed on: October 1st, 2013
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in Rush

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in Rush

I likewise knew nothing of James Hunt, Niki Lauda or their rivalry prior to seeing Rush.  The only formula one driver I had ever heard of was Mario Andretti, who is referred to in the film several times but never depicted. Like Scott I think that worked for the best as the story has few surprises as is.

The depiction of Hunt’s and Lauda’s most renowned competitive year is exciting and emotional.  The movie should have focused solely on that one year. At just over two hours, this sports drama is about twenty minutes too long.

Hunt was briefly married to a model who left him for Richard Burton. Her story line serves nothing to the plot. She should have, at best, received merely a mention. In fact, the story should have been told entirely from Niki Lauda’s perspective. 1976 was the year that defined his career. He also got married and nearly died that year.  

Hunt is actually a pretty boring character even though he partied all the time and slept with lots of different women. That may sound like a good time to experience firsthand but outside of a porn film; it makes for a poor story. You may want to be Hunt or hang with him but he hardly makes for a sympathetic character. I never cared if he won a race or not?

Lauda on the other hand has a hard time making friends. He is boringly serious. The media nicknamed him “Rat” because of his looks. He does not have the charm with the ladies that Hunt does. You want to see him prove his father wrong. You want to see him and his wife make it. You want to see him make a comeback. On the surface he is nothing compared to Hunt but underneath he is twice the man Hunt was.

The race scenes are exciting and some of the dramatic moments work but Howard chose the wrong subject to focus on. Hunt may make for a great poster boy and one hell of a tabloid read but this film never shows him as anything but a shallow vapid bore. Rush should have been almost entirely about Lauda. Only his story line garners any of your sympathy.

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