out of Five
Running time: 123
Rush is a magnificently entertaining drama that gets everything right, thanks to an emotionally engaging script, assured, pacey direction, fascinating characters, a pair of terrific performances from Hemsworth and Bruhl and stunning camerawork from cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan, Rush is based on the true story of the rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) during the 1976 Grand Prix season. Their personalities couldn't be more different: Englishman Hunt is a hedonistic, hard-drinking hellraiser, while Austrian Lauda is a technical-minded perfectionist with no interest in social niceties, which makes his proposal to girlfriend Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) somewhat painful to watch.
As the season progresses both men enjoy a number of successes but also suffer a series of setbacks, both personally and professionally: Hunt's marriage to feisty model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde, nailing the Britsh accent) hits the rocks and his eccentric backer Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay) runs out of money, while Lauda survives a horrific crash at the German Grand Prix, requiring him to need extensive plastic surgery. Incredibly, Lauda recovers and makes a heroic comeback less than two months later (inspired in large part by his rivalry with Hunt), setting the stage for the final battle between the two men at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hemsworth and Bruhl deliver exceptional, complex performances that really get to the bones of the different elements that drive both men; as a result, their evolving relationship is both powerfully moving and genuinely fascinating to watch, comprised of a heady mix of fierce rivalry, obsession, mutual respect and admiration. Intriguingly, neither man is presented as entirely sympathetic and the characters end up jostling for position in the audience's affections just as they did in the races themselves.
Morgan's excellent track record with scripts about complex relationships between real life figures speaks for itself (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and his work here (reunited with his Frost/Nixon director) is no exception, delivering moments of powerful emotion and making the race scenes nail bitingly thrilling even when the historical facts don't necessarily conform to the expected sports movie-friendly clichés.
Howard's direction of Rush is pacey and assured throughout, nailing both the emotional drama and the excitement of the racing sequences; there are also moments that are genuinely shocking, such as the detail of Lauda's surgery procedure, while the decision to include real life footage of the two men at the end provides the perfect coda. In addition, Rush is further heightened by both Anthony Dod Mantle's stunning camerawork (which both brings the races to life and matches the look of the film to 70s archive footage) and some room shaking sound design work that needs to be experienced in the best sound equipped cinema you can find.
Superbly directed and brilliantly shot, Rush is simply unmissable entertainment, thanks to terrific performances and a powerfully emotional script that ensures the film appeals to both Formula 1 fans and newcomers alike. A must-see and one of the best films of the year.