This biopic should be a blast for mature teens and mature adults. Rush is crossover entertainment, meaning it will appeal to people not interested in auto racing but simply egotistical character duels. I really limited my expectations because I didn’t think a movie about auto racers would do it for me, even though I’m supposed to be open-minded to any kind of movie. Chris Hemsworth is British sex animal James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl is Austrian trust fund baby Niki Lauda, two competitors in the mid-1970’s Formula 1 European racing circuit who rivaled off the track with their clashing personalities. Ron Howard’s film rarely sputters and has a couple of wiseacre classic scenes. Pedigree screenwriter Peter Morgan provides the sharp-edged dialogue (he also wrote Howard’s ego duel “Frost/Nixon”).
The film follows the early 70’s, and crucially 1975-1976. There is no third competitor that gave Hunt or Lauda a run for their money, at least according to this film, not unless you count the women that stole their hearts behind the scenes. Hunt, while married briefly to an international model named Suzy (Olivia Wilde), is mostly a womanizing cad with a touch of Mick Jagger. Lauda, who is into perfectly calibrated automobiles first and heiresses second, catches the eye of one named Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara). But the truth is that these two hot rods are thrill-seekers who gauged first-place achievement and death-defying driving as their shared interest.
The dangers of the profession are not dealt to the side, and on the circuit, we get the horrendous risks. “The closer you feel to death, the more alive you feel,” is what Hunt says, a quote which is very similar to a quite different 1993 film called “Fearless” where Jeff Bridges said, as if to God, “You want to kill me, but you can’t!” The 1976 headliner is the German Grand Prix, where wet surfaces compromise the safety of the drivers on racing day. The chances of crashing are multiplied tenfold, but the egos of all involved cannot lay down. The race must go on.
The on-track cinematography is rough and dirty, and the longer shots that Howard sometimes holds, are even better. We feel the ick of weather grease the screen. Footage of cars zooming around racetracks is satisfying enough. But the extreme highs and furious lows of Hunt and Lauda is what makes “Rush” compelling. The risks in this chosen occupation propelled Hunt to live fast and Lauda to live calculating. They both, disarmingly, turn impactful on each other’s destinies. Crash or no crash.
122 Minutes. Rated R.
BIOGRAPHICAL DRAMA / SPEED FANS / FRIDAY NIGHT BLOCKBUSTER
Film Cousins: “Grand Prix” (1966); “Grand Theft Auto” (1977); “Days of Thunder” (1990); “Fearless” (1993).