DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
CAST: Chris Hemsworth,Daniel Bruhl,Olivia Wilde
Based on the intense Formula 1 rivalry between the Austrian Niki Lauda and the Briton James Hunt of the 1970s,Rush gives you everything but that. It gives you the sound,the sights,the fury,the calculations,even the blood and the flesh of racing,while strangely leaving you cold about the characters within it. Howards eyes are on the larger picture and he ticks the necessary boxes towards that end,with his two main characters fitting into two such neat boxes themselves.
Of Hemsworth as Hunt and Bruhl as Lauda,this is more evident in the case of the Thor star who is brazenly channelling all his charm when he is not cooped inside the coffin of a racing car. His Hunt like the real one,though obviously not in such movie-like dimensions is a flirt,risk-taker,indisciplined,passionate racer,with drug and drinking issues,who cant be depended upon 9 out of 10 days but on the 10th day can beat any of the best. Lauda is the complete alter ego: the risk-averse planner who sleeps early,gets up early,trains diligently,constantly experiments with his cars,and considers racing more a money-making occupation than a passion. Hunt is a tabloid darling; Lauda isnt liked by even his own team.
You get where Howard is going with this film and Rush never changes course from that direction. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (127 Hours,Slumdog Millionaire) lifts the film by the way it is shot,from capturing the eyes of the racers inside those helmets to the tyres blistering on the tracks and the grass grazed on the sides,but especially when he tackles all that comes with speeding in the rain.
The screenplay by Oscar-nominated Peter Morgan is also crackling,particularly in establishing the contrast between two distinct personalities handling the same issues,or interacting with one another. The pre-race meeting called by Lauda of drivers before the German Grand Prix of 1976,where he has his near-fatal accident,is particularly striking.
If Hemsworth overdoes the good-looking sports star factor,Bruhl (The Inglourious Basterds) underplays his Lauda even while making him creepingly unlikable. Even the successful recovery from the crash,and return to the racing tracks,doesnt lift him in the popularity stakes some would say an achievement in itself.
Given the rules of its by-the-book approach,Rush obviously picks up towards the end,when the finish line is near and the tension a notch up. However,wasnt this film meant to be about all the blind corners that came before?