As somebody who has grown up never really seeing a movie based on the sport I love, it was with great anticipation that I waited for Rush to come out and finally see a movie based on Formula 1.
I know there have been numerous movies made on the sport throughout time, and of course several based on motorsport in general. But I wanted to see a modern take on Formula 1, the jewel in the motorsport crown. Now that Rush is here, it’s a perfect opportunity for people like myself to get excited at finally seeing the sport on the silver screen, and see it done in a way that is almost too good to fathom.
The movie is based on the heated rivalry between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda during the 1970s, and focuses on their battle in the 1976 Formula One season for the World Championship. As most F1 fans will know, James Hunt (played by former Home & Away and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth) was a brash, outlandish playboy figure in the sport during the 70s and whilst gifted on the track, was more well known for his exploits off the track. On the other hand, Nikki Lauda (played by the outstanding Daniel Bruhl) was a serious, calculated driver who gave attention to the smallest details in order to make sure he was the fastest and best driver on track. Together that gave the sport one of it’s most iconic rivalries, one that culminated almost tragically with the near fatal accident of Lauda at the Nurburgring in 1976.
This iconic story is brought to life by Ron Howard, director behind such films as Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. Howard is no stranger to movies based on cars, having previously directed Grand Theft Auto and starring in American Graffiti and this time he brings his passion for all things fast to the screen in the best possible way. The cars look superb and give you a real sense of speed and danger in an era of the sport where men were expected to die every year. The colour and glitz of the 70s is also captured in all it’s glorious detail, and within moments of the film starting you already feel like you have stepped back in time to an era in the sport which many people long for.
The racing scenes are exciting and use a mixture of computer generated effects and real life cars to capture the best moments of the sport. The crash scenes are confronting and graphic, and you get a real sense of danger from outside the cars with photographers, fans and the mechanics so close to the action that accidents were simply inevitable. I will also say again that the crashes are graphic. And they almost have to be. It was a senseless age in the sport where it was just expected people would die, and this aspect is captured in a disturbing manner, but without it taking away from the film itself. The Lauda crash is extremely confronting, as well as his recovery, and there are several moments that definitely aren’t for the squeamish. But the message definitely comes across just as strong.
The star of this film however is easily Bruhl, who makes you feel some form of sympathy for the Lauda character who you would generally treat as the villain if you were to follow the general movie themes. He is cold, calculating and devoid of emotion for the most part, which in comparison to the fun loving and energetic Hunt gives you a polar opposite dynamic throughout the movie. You can squint your eyes and pretend you are seeing Lauda in his younger days, and Bruhl nails the Lauda voice better than Lauda himself it seems in some scenes. If his performance doesn’t attract the attention of Oscar voters in 2014, then I’ll be extremely surprised.
Everything else about this movie works too. Hemsworth is in no way a slouch in his performance of Hunt, and he certainly looks like he had fun making this movie. I’ll admit it’s the first time I’ve ever seen more than one emotion come across his face on screen, so clearly there is more to this generally wooden actor than we get a chance to see in his other roles. The soundtrack and effects are spectacular, and adds to the overall vibe of the movie in transforming you back to the 70s. And whether you know how the 1976 F1 season plays out or not, you’ll be on the edge of your seat witnessing the final moments just to see whether Hunt can take his first championship or whether Lauda will win his second.
Overall the movie is as close to cinematic perfection as you can get, and be you a motor racing fan or just somebody who likes a good movie, Rush is definitely a perfect film to enjoy and see over and over again.
Verdict: 10 out of 10
This article was originally written for The Qualifying Lap. You can read the published version here