There’s always something appealing about sports films. Whether it’s the exceptional camaraderie in Remember the Titans, or the classic unique-approach story of Coach Carter, there’s an element of human experience that pulls you in and sits you firmly behind the protagonist(s) so that when it comes to the climactic race/game/match you’re cheering for them as you would if England were about to actually win something in football.
This is not quite the case in Rush. As the film neared its climax – the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji – I found myself rooting for neither the charismatic James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) nor the calculated Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), I was simply caught up in the tension of this final showdown. It also helped that as a fairly young person, I have no recollection of the outcome of that Formula 1 season! But nevertheless, real tension is what I felt.
The film charts the lives of these two different and compelling characters and shows events equally from their perspectives. Their fantastic portrayal is such that to define the characters by an adjective each would be selling them short. Hemsworth and Brühl round them out so well as two real men with fears, passions, and desires who shared a very unique relationship on and off the track – this isn’t your average sports flick. I was particularly impressed by Brühl’s spot on recreation of Lauda’s distinct Austrian accent, which does not sound easy to replicate at all! Another source of enjoyment is the driver’s relationships with their significant others, the plural being particularly apt for Mr Hunt. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara ably support as the women who chose to intertwine their lives with Hunt and Lauda respectively and faced the consequences. It is through them that we see another side to these fascinating characters, behind the intense will to win – the Lauda marriage scene is charming in its regimented stoic-ness.
Even though this is a story about two drivers, at this point I have to talk about the races, and what gripping races they are! Ron Howard’s direction is fast paced and frantic during these scenes using a wide variety of camera angles that have us squished into the helmets of the drivers and attached perilously to the sides of the cars. They go a long way to injecting the danger of 70s Formula 1 racing along with the excellent 70s aesthetic. Hans Zimmer’s thumping soundtrack punctuates the action at all the right points with drums and electric guitar matching the swagger of the time period, elevating the tension and keeping pace with the onscreen action. It is also present in the calmer segments where it provides a sometimes ominous and pensive atmosphere in the build-up to the close of the season. There are shades of the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception but sadly no sight of the timelessly cool bass of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (Seriously, how can you have Formula 1 without that?!). This film demands to be heard through speakers cranked up to 11 if only to experience the thundering roar of the Formula 1 engines – it’s a symphony of engineering awesomeness that makes me wish I could have wandered the pits in that season.
Ultimately the film succeeds in telling an engaging and electrifying story that is all the more interesting due to the real events that it is based on. It is a real testament to Hunt and Lauda that their relationship, though it was a rivalry, was no less based on mutual respect. Rush is a thrilling heartfelt tale that is brilliant whichever way you see it, but in my humble opinion – get down to your local cinema (they’ve got the epic sound system!).
Check out the true story of Hunt and Lauda in the video below.
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