Sure, you may or may not be well-versed in the adrenaline-fueled world of Formula 1 racing, but Ron Howard's latest picture is an intense, dangerous and thrilling ride down memory lane at 220 mph.
Crafting an interwoven story that spotlights a scrappy racing rivalry and the history of a daredevil's sport, RUSH focuses on the worldwide brouhaha started by protagonists James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl, a star in the making soon to be seen in The Fifth Estate).
The film crosses the starting line in 1970 and culminates around 1976, following their rise from third-string race-car jockeys to Formula One's version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
As Hunt, Hemsworth's character is reminiscent of Thor, in that he is a notorious fighter with a hard-headed sensibility that doubles as charm. His character is a noted risk-taker who is given to toke up (and throw up) before big races, and then gets roaring drunk afterwards. Lauda is Hunt's polar opposite in nearly every way possible in that he's cold, calculating to the nth degree and only wants to take 20% risk during a bout. Together, the two screen mavens electrify the screen from beginning to end, which sounds plausible given casting director Nina Gold's (The King's Speech) Midas-like touch.
Hemsworth doubles-down on his star-making quota as the Brit racing legend. Reigning atop the leaderboards as an infamous figure within the racing world, Hunt is a speed demon savant, living fast in a pre-HIV, post-Civil Rights society. The frequently-in-work actor, Daniel Brühl, compliments the picture as the austere Lauda, whose moody presence lends an element of weight to RUSH's tale. In a very telling scene, Lauda even turns his back on his own family's banking business in order to become a global phenomenon within the Formula One racing world.
Supporting players such as Olivia Wilde (Suzy Miller) and Alexandra Maria Lara (Marlene Lauda) help to make plain the two rival's more personal decisions. The two reflect just how completely different their significant others are while adding a unique vulnerability to their roles. Wilde as Miller often makes Hunt, the playboy heart-breaker, change his gears for his diva wife; while Alexandra Maria Lara is Niki Lauda's compassionate and steadfast wife.
Add to RUSH the firing-on-all-cylinders camerawork from Anthony Dod Mantle and you have an increased level of vigor to enjoy. Mantle, whose work has won an award for Best Cinematography (2008's Slumdog Millionaire), was the first to use the Red One digital camera in British television. His extreme close-ups within the chariots Hunt calls "coffins on wheels," allows audiences to be an integral part of the ride as him and Lauda careen around racing's most infamous tracks. The extensive use of a point-of-view shot within the car, or even inside Lauda's helmet add an element of thrilling intensity and personality to the picture.
RUSH's high-paced rhythm is driven into the pits by a few unnecessary detours into cliched biopic territory. Such a scene is the sad, sonic soundtrack which plays as Hemsworth's character downs his sorrows after a big defeat. Do we really need to divert off the accelerated path? The answer is no, as Ron Howard's picture works best when it builds upon the real life events, tragedies and successes of the two rivals. When the final act leads to the inevitable face-off between the two, you're buckled in for the ride and at the edge of your seat as the two compete in a rain-drenched racetrack. All the while you're hoping the best man takes home the grand prize.
Another big draw to this picture is writer Peter Morgan's impeccably written dialogue. The scribe behind The Queen and Frost/Nixon writes as if he's plucked the words directly from the moment, and gives the actor plenty of space to dive into their character's personal charisma.
All in all, RUSH has more to satisfy movie fans than just guys, sexy gals and fast cars — it is a deeply woven drama that showcases the history of an aggressive sport and the fiery competitiveness of two men that made it entertaining for the entire world.
Don't believe us? You can watch the trailer below:
RUSH directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara is in theaters now (9/27).