After witnessing the majesty of Rush, it is honestly hard to believe it took this long to bring the true story of the James Hunt and Niki Lauda rivalry to the big screen. Perhaps it was fate working its magic as Movie Fanatic cannot imagine anyone other than director Ron Howard capturing the Formula 1 racing battle with Chris Hemsworth showing some serious acting chops as Hunt and Daniel Bruhl making a career announcement as Lauda.
In the mid to late 1970s, Formula 1 racing had no bigger stars than the Austrian Lauda and the Brit, Hunt. Their entanglements began early as both were Formula 3 drivers coming up. Hunt was immediately put off by Lauda using money to “buy” his way into racing while Lauda seemed to resent Hunt’s living the lifestyle that epitomized that era of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Lauda saw Hunt as a real rival, and if he ever got serious… he could be a true challenge.
They both made their way to the Formula 1 big leagues and that is where there tete-a-tete went global. As seen in the Rush trailer, in one of their races, Lauda would barely escape with his life from a fiery crash. It would be that moment where Hunt would take over Lauda in the standings, pushing towards being that year’s champion. The Austrian sat in his hospital room, “driven” by what he saw Hunt doing and utterly determined to make it back into a car.
Howard weaves the extracurricular activities of these two men effortlessly throughout his film. Olivia Wilde plays Hunt’s wife Suzy Miller, although their union was short-lived, while Alexandra Maria Lara is uncanny as Marlene Lauda. Each is married to a man who is thriving in a vocation where at least two drivers die each year. That fact is painted impeccably by Howard.
Then, there are the two leads. As Lauda and Hunt do their competitive dance back and forth over the course of the film, so too do Hemsworth and Bruhl. Each seizes the moment that has been presented to them in this most astounding of true tales of rivals willing to face death in order to prove they are better than the other. Hemsworth is stripped of Thor’s hammer and turns in a performance that shows this guy has some serious mettle.
And Bruhl is a revelation. We will soon see him in The Fifth Estate and we believe that this Spanish actor is on his way to becoming a sensation. His Lauda is a study in determination in the face of adversity. Sure, he entered the sport with money. But, bucks don’t buy talent and pure grit. And through Bruhl’s characterization, we get to see all those sides of Lauda… and much more.
Howard manages to pull in fans who do not enjoy auto racing in the slightest and the audience becomes fully sucked into the drama. The director has made it breathtaking, and more importantly, allows the viewer to feel what these racers are experiencing.
In many ways, Rush is the most unlike-Ron Howard movie of the man’s esteemed career. When witnessing a film of his, it is of the utmost quality, but you know you’re watching a Ron Howard work. But, not with Rush and perhaps that is because he is able to get out of the way of the drama and powerful characters that pop off the screen. Maybe it is because the story at the root of Rush is one that compels all its own.
Whatever the reason, our Rush review finds that the true story rivets around every turn and gets our engines revving well into the red.