WHAT A RUSH
Rebels, lunatics, dreamers; the three words Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) chooses to describe himself, and his fellow Formula One drivers, within the opening monologue of Rush. Beginning its true-to-life narrative upon the fateful day of the 1976 German Grand Prix, a race in which Lauda was severely injured and permanently disfigured, the Austrian born driver’s words are ultimately proved to be incredibly apt – hanging over the picture until we once again revisit that dark, rain-soaked day onscreen.
Decades ago the sport of professional racing, especially the high-speed, high-stakes nature of Formula One, was a different beast entirely. A pursuit of thrill seekers, both talented and crazy enough to find themselves strapped to a flimsy frame and sat upon four wheels capable of achieving phenomenal speeds. Modern-day racers’ genetic makeup way well boast the same iron will and nerves of steel as those who paved the racing way for them, but essentially the risk factor is greatly diminished by advances in both technology and safety protocol. Rush’ great strength from a narrative point-of-view is its ability to draw upon this palpable sense of bygone danger, exploring what truly compelled individuals to expose themselves to it. Add a deeply personal rivalry to the mix and there’s no slowing this infamous sporting story down.
James Hunt’s public persona may well have been that of a bohemian playboy, fuelled on sex, booze, and cigarettes, while Lauda’s that of a clean-living, machine-like individual immersed in the science of racing, but it’s their common goal of championship victory and the great lengths they went to in achieving it, which makes Rush such a compelling watch. Whilst physically Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl’s appearances closely mirror that of their real-life battling counterparts, the spirit they exhibit is a fitting tribute to the greatly missed Hunt, and Lauda, who following the Nurburgring crash displayed unparalleled resiliency and heart – continuing to serve racing to this day.
Unfortunately, the largely British cast of supporting players is frequently Rush’ most evident misstep; the immersion of early scenes vastly diminished by the inclusion of the caricature-esque dandies who gravitate around Hunt. Luckily, this decision on the part of director Ron Howard to pander to a tired stereotype of Englishness is quickly relinquished, allowing performances of real depth to take pole position; Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara deserving special mentions for their strong roles as the women who struggled alongside Hunt and Lauda. From a visual standpoint, Rush clearly strives to achieve an accurate recreation of the late-seventies, and does so with great flair; from the locations, to the clothes, to most importantly, the cars, the aesthetic flair of the period is expertly recreated. When we find ourselves in the various global pit-lanes, the sights and sounds are electric. From the first roar of an engine to the pop of a champagne cork, Howard’s proficiency in crafting a living, breathing slice of history onscreen is once again clearly exhibited.
For both racing fans and film lovers alike Rush strikes a perfect balance. The high-octane action, the characterization of Hunt and Lauda, and the finer details of visual and narrative exposition, all equate to a glamorous, thrilling, and necessary document of a rivalry which for one year captured not only the racing world’s attention, but the world full stop.