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Rush – film review

September 27, 2013


Qualifies for pole position as best film of the year.

Reviewed on Friday 20th September 2013

RUSH - Hemsworth - Bruhl

Directed by Ron Howard. Written by Peter Morgan. Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara. Running time: 123 minutes.

Set amid the perilous world of Formula One motor racing during the swinging 70’s, Rush chronicles the real-life unfolding of an uneasy bromance between rival racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda – two polar opposites who exist only to spur each other on in an obsessive pursuit of glory. As their deep-seated rivalry escalates, the two men discover they may not be so different after all.

From the very opening of the movie we are made aware of just how dangerous a sport Formula One actually is; being told that – of the 25 starters at the beginning of any given season – at least two will have been killed in fiery crashes by the end of the year. But as James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) explains – you are never more alive     than when facing death and confronting your own mortality.

Hemsworth is suitably roguish and dashing as the cavalier, hard-drinking, womanizing Hunt – while Daniel Bruhl gives an astonishing performance as the earnest, analytical and no-nonsense Lauda. Despite his brisk, humorless nature – we really do warm to this guy and it is to Bruhl’s credit that we empathize with this ‘rat-faced little Austrian’ as much as we do. Of the rest of the cast – American actress Olivia Wilde (who delighted fanboys everywhere with her role in Tron Legacy) – is also very good as Hunt’s long-suffering supermodel wife Suzy Miller. Her pitch-perfect English accent being particulary worthy of a mention.

As he had done previously with Apollo 13, director Ron Howard again displays an unerring attention to detail – in not only his depiction of the era (again the early 70’s) but also in the world of men and their machines around which the movie revolves.     A palpable sense of verisimilitude is sustained throughout the movie with hair,     make-up and wardrobe used to great effect to authentically evoke the period.

There are two major racing set-pieces in Rush and both are handled with a terrific sense of realism. The first is an extended sequence highlighting various stoushes during the 1976 racing season – during which Hunt and Lauda were literally neck and neck in their pursuit of the world championship. The sequence culminates with the fiery crash in Germany which severely burned and disfigured Niki Lauda and almost claimed his life. During this incredibly harrowing scene, we look on in horror as Niki sits trapped in his burning wreck for over a minute – as temperatures in excess of 800 degrees burn him alive, while rescuers attempt to save him. The crash itself is authentically recreated with the use of visual effects and closely resembles the actual real-life event – as evidenced when we see a replay of the actual incident on a TV set soon after. This really is the pivotal scene of the entire movie – as Niki’s horrific accident (and subsequent recovery) becomes the catalizing event which leads to     the thawing of his long-standing and fervid rivalry with his long-time nemesis.

The obsessive lengths to which Niki is willing to go in order to win becomes apparent during the horrendous medical procedures he endures in order to make him well enough to race. Spurred on by Hunt’s subsequent victories and despite his facial injuries not having fully healed, Niki attempts to slip his tight-fitting helmet on – forcing us to question his sanity – only to gain our admiration (and the admiration of Hunt) when he shows up to race just six weeks after the accident. It is at this point that Niki emerges the hero, regardless of whether he triumphs on the track or not.

The second big racing sequence – where Hunt and Niki face-off in atrocious wet weather conditions during the final race of the season in Tokyo – is a tour de force of editing, visual effects, camera placement and precision driving – resulting in a truly immersive experience for the viewer. We really do get a sense of what it must be like being behind the wheel, racing in such terrifying conditions. Although the race action itself is almost entirely done for real – with real cars on real race tracks – there is a significant use of CGI employed during the racing sequences. However, unlike Renny Harlin’s 2001 CG-heavy racing picture Driven – the effects here are so well integrated into the action – the viewer would be hard pressed to spot them. Actually, there were one or two shots which appeared a little hokey to me – but overall they were pretty much seamless.

The problem normally associated with racing pictures – with narrative momentum grinding to a halt once we’re away from the track – is successfully avoided here thanks to the compelling relationship lovingly developed between the two leads. Structurally, the narrative maintains our attention by expertly weaving together       the parallel trajectories of these two protagonists in such a way that we not only understand who these people are by the time they meet face-to-face on the track – but we care equally about them both. And this is really where the film triumphs as     a masterful piece of cinema.

Aside from being one hell of an exhilarating high-octane ride; at its core – Rush is very much an affirmation of the tenacity of the human spirit and is, without a doubt, one of the must-see films of the year.

5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Palace-Nova East End Cinemas, Adelaide, September 20th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.


From → film reviews

  1. Great review of a fine film, Greg!

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers Graham – I look forward to your Cinefex article! 🙂

  2. Xenolicker permalink

    The swinging 70’s? Are you sure? Weren’t that the 60’s? I thought the 70’s were funky! ( I’m no eXpert though; thank god i’m not THAT old yet!)

  3. gregory moss permalink

    Yeah, the 60’s were pretty ‘happening’ too. But I’m pretty sure the 70’s were also generally referred to as ‘swinging’ – not that I would know – I was only a kid. 🙂

    • Xenolicker permalink

      Aside: I didn’t mean no disrespect to all the jurassic geezers out there! (Go Rolling Stones go, but by Hun… sorry, i mean by Thor be careful!)

  4. Excellent review as always! 🙂 And one you know I 100% agree with. Amazing film! I have nothing to add as I feel exactly the same way about the film as you do. Sorry it took so long to finally read this! 😉 Hectic week!

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