UK Release Date: 13th September 2013
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde
Synopsis: The story of the dramatic and dangerous F1 rivalry between hothead Brit James Hunt and methodical Austrian Niki Lauda.
A few years ago, Asif Kapadia’s Senna proved that films about F1 racing could appeal to anyone, regardless of their level of interest in the sport. Now, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard has taken his best shot at the genre with the engaging and occasionally brilliant Rush. Five years on from Frost/Nixon, it’s time for Hunt/Lauda.
James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a racing playboy, sitting pretty on top of the field in Formula 3. He is eventually toppled by serious Austrian newcomer Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), who eventually works his way into the big leagues of F1. Joining him there with an unknown team, Hunt ignites a rivalry that culminates in the near fatal mayhem of the 1976 season.
There has been an enormous amount of buzz surrounding the release of Rush, with many already flagging it up as a possible awards contender. Certainly, there’s plenty of gongworthy material here. Howard’s direction is absolutely top notch and Hans Zimmer’s score battles brilliantly amongst the petrol porn of deafening engine noise.
The real prizeworthy turn though is Daniel Brühl’s prickly turn as Niki Lauda. A capable supporting player (Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum) for a number of years, Rush is Brühl’s step into the limelight and he definitely deserves to pick up a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He never attempts to make Lauda likeable, but manages to create a deep sympathy for the character as he tries to express himself amongst company that just doesn’t understand his meticulous mental machinations.
Stylistically, Rush is nothing short of wonderful. The camera of Anthony Dod Mantle is limitless in its invention, darting inside wheels, under cars and over the track as rubber is burnt liberally. The ill-fated German Grand Prix in the rain is a masterpiece of camerawork and tension building as Lauda embarks on a collision course towards the blazing inferno that nearly claimed his life.
Unfortunately, if there’s an issue here, it lies with Peter Morgan’s script. Whilst strong, it packs in some clumsy exposition via a track commentator that begins to grate as Rush nears its climax. It also suffers from the inevitable Frost/Nixon comparisons. That film featured two intellectual heavyweights battling as equals, whereas this often feels like one genius with an irritating underdog snapping away at him.
That said, Rush is still a stunning achievement. It’s a high-octane thrill ride and the perfect antidote to those who criticise F1 as a boring sport. Whether it’s boring on the track is a different matter, but it’s brilliant on the big screen.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.