Chris Hemsworth stars in Ron Howard's Formula 1 racing drama Rush, which opens wide this weekend! But does the real-life story win the race or get stuck at the starting line? 411's Terry Lewis checks in with his full review!
Chris Hemsworth - James Hunt Daniel Brühl - Nikki Lauda Olivia Wilde - Suzy Miller Alexandra Maria Lara - Marlene Knaus Pierfrancesco Favino - Clay Regazzoni Christian McKay - Alexander Hesketh Natalie Dormer - Gemma
Everybody loves a good rivalry in the fictional world of films but whatís even better is when a real life one is brought to life at the movies. The Formula 1 motor racing duel between Britainís James Hunt and Austriaís Nikki Lauda is still celebrated and is a cornerstone of the sport to this day with the two drivers going at each other competitively over world titles. Who better than top ginger and top director Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon) then to bring to the feud to the big screen in a masterwork of biopic filmmaking in Rush?
Two rising stars of the Formula 3 circuit in the 1970ís are at loggerheads with each other. Lauda (Daniel Brühl, Inglorious Basterds) is the straight edge workaholic whose out to prove heís the best through winning races. Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) on the other hand is the popular, reckless daredevil, playboy party animal and media favourite. The two though different ways end up on the grandest stage of all in motor racing sport, Formula 1. Lauda is on course for proving heís the best after Huntís numerous failures. However, after a horrific accident leaves Lauda with terrible burns to his face, Hunt is on course to win the world championship. Through his own mental strength and against doctorís orders, Lauda returns to the grid to go after his world title.
Whilst the film is fairly balanced in showing both sides of the feud between the two drivers, there is a tad more placed on Hunt, blatantly because he does more interesting things. In real life he really did have his playboy persona marrying and divorcing supermodels on a whim, going through masses amounts of alcohol and substance abuse as well as burying himself into a sea of lovely ladies. What Iím more impressed with is the time and care taken to play up his little idiosyncrasies like walking around parties in jeans and barefooted and vomiting before races to get himself on edge. Yet the effort is there to show how he is an exceptional driver underneath all the bravado and he could back it up in a race. It makes him look more respectable and Hemsworth is a mirror image almost of Hunt. Youíre left wishing that this is just a Hunt bio pic at times, Hemsworth is that good in his captivating performance here.
In contrast, Brühl is superbly bland, in a good way. Lauda always had the knack of racing dynamics to succeed and his journey entering one of the biggest racing teams in the world in Ferrari is handled so well. There are two sides to his performance; the first sees his ďbetter than youĒ dick attitude at itís finest, going around saying heís a better driver to other veterans because he can back it up with lap times, wins, car knowledge and all that. He doesnít showboat to woo women either unless they ask for it (the scene where he meets his wife, played by a minor but effective Alexandra Maria Lara, and two Ferrari fans is handled wonderfully). The highlight of this driven man is when he admits to his wife on the eve of their wedding when he admits heíll probably forget her birthday in a half joking way because heís so determined in his work.
The second is post crash with the focused Lauda coming back with something to prove heís still capable of being the champion. Without giving away the end, the emotional decision at the end really hits home and cements Laudaís reputation of being a gentleman in the sport. With a dramatic shift, he becomes the one you root more for through not just sympathy but Brühlís performance encompassing Laudaís route back Ė heís not doing it because he wants to, heís doing it because he has to beat that bloody Englishman Hunt.
The rivalry is the real reason to watch this film. Hemsworth and Brühl put in award contendership performances in getting over a classic tale of the straight and arrow against the Wildman with added multi million pound race cars. Thereís not too many scenes they share as the rivalry is shown more about each man is a symbol to beat compared to the other. Thereís some poignant quips and snipes with Brühlís Lauda taking Hemsworthís Hunt to task over his lifestyle and being lonely in reality, whilst Hunt canít resist digging into Lauda about how dull and boring he is. It wouldnít surprise me with how engrossed in the real life people theyíre portraying Brühl and Hemsworth may have had tension on set, it just feels so real.
Iím so glad thereís some love and effort actually put into the racing scenes as well as the technology behind 1970ís Formula 1. It could have been so simple just to have them in cars and thatís it but Howard goes the extra mile to have both Lauda and Hunt spout not too complex dialogue about making the cars go faster in the earlier half. F1 is a bit of a nerd sport with the tech so itís nice to see it acknowledged. Howard went the length to go and film on the original old courses too and the inclusion of the original advertising signs is fan pleasing.
Simply put, you will not see any better effects this year for any film. Being a film based round the dangers of F1 racing, the crashes are epic. The Lauda crash is harrowing with the sheer horror of seeing not only a car collide with a race wall and explode but for another car to slam into it and seeing other drivers struggle to get him is just evil to watch, especially when you notice itís replicated like for like with stock footage of the actual event later in the film. The weather effects are fantastic too. Two races in the wet make you think twice about even watching the action unfold on screen and adds to the grim foreboding surrounding the mood of the drivers not wanting to race in dodgy conditions.
Itís not just the car effects I was impressed with. The medical side is at the right level of realistic gore to play up to how Formula 1 was a much dangerous sport at the time and drivers were dying in races. One driver they pull out of wreckage early in the film survives but a massive chunk of his leg flesh is missing, exposing the bone. Not content with that, when Lauda pulls off his old bandages, the sickening tear of burnt, moist skin for the fresh layer below is utterly disgusting but really adds to the scene. Throw in the old method of cleaning out his poisoned lungs (literally putting a pipe down his throat) then you get an appreciation of what drivers of the time were subject to, delivering a bigger emotional impact of Laudaís real life recovery.
The only real critique I have is of the weird feeling of fakeness plastered all over the film but then it adds to the superficial layer of the playboy lifestyle Hunt has wrapped himself in. Thereís a temptation to askew the truth somewhat in an film based on real life event and Rush is no different in the sense that Lauda and Hunt were friends off the field and even roommates at one point early in their racing careers. Small nitpicks but it may rile up better fans for F1 history than me and perhaps it would be nice to see some form of acknowledgement of that. Then again the whole purpose of the film is to get over the historic rivalry here which is done masterfully.
The 411: Thereís not enough I can do to talk up this film. Rush is a force to be reckoned with emotionally. With two award winning acting performances under a quality director with a track record in this scenario of film, this is the pinnacle of Formula 1 racing on the big screen with the engrossing rivalry of Hunt and Brühl truly brought to life. From everyone from race historians to current racing fans to casual cinemagoers, this is essential.