Tuesday, October 1, 2013


If you dismiss “Rush” as a car racing movie, don't. Character-driven, it's so much more than that.  It brilliantly details the relationship between “frenemies” Formula One legendary race car drivers in the mid 1970s, British James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor,” “The Avengers”) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl).  While both are driven to win, the two men can't be anymore different.

Hunt is a looker and womanizer, leading a wild lifestyle, filled with drugs, booze and women. He's introduced as popular and more of a star than his soon-to-be rival, Lauda.  He ends up marrying a glamorous model, Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde, "Tron Legacy"), but not surprisingly, it doesn't last. Wilde is memorable in their parting conversations. 

Lauda goes against his privileged family's career expectations and makes his mark a race car driver on his own.  Professional and methodical, he funds his own dream and works his way into the circuits.  He understands race cars inside out and works with his mechanics to build a superstar car in the early days of his career.  He's disciplined and dedicated, an early riser who arrives on the track before sunrise, goes home after the race, and takes care of himself and his car.  Eventually he settles down with a sensible lady, Marlene (Alexandra Mara Lara).  One particular scene in Italy, where he drives a passerby's car after he and his future wife get stranded on the side of road, is delight.  That scene distills Lauda's character.

Racing in “a coffin surrounded by octane” is a dangerous sport, to be sure.  It's for those who crave for extreme speed, risk and danger.  A daredevil like Hunt, who's willing to die to beat his rival.  Even the calculated one, like Lauda, is aware and estimates the chance of getting killed each time he accelerates on the pedal.  The one time he goes against his better judgment has serious consequences.  There are graphic scenes where drivers get killed, maimed or scorched, including a grueling recovery.

“Rush” is a winning work from director Ron Howard.  The men's characters are well-defined, yet not one dimensional.  The relationship between the two is not as black-and-white.  Ultra-competitive, at times contentious, but their mutual respect and admiration are apparent.  They push each other's limit beyond what's possible and are champions in their own rights.  Hemsworth may be the face of the film and he's fine here, but Bruhl has a more meatier role and far wittier lines. 

The round-the-world race sequences, culminating in the fog-shrouded and soaked-road of the Grand Prix against the backdrop of Mount Fuji in Japan in 1976, are breathtaking. You'll feel as if you're there.  Sometimes being under the helmets and behind the wheels on the race track, others cheering in celebration and gasping in horror as an audience.  You'll hear the engines roar in your ears, sense the grinding of the nuts and bolts, smell the fuel, swirl around dirt and smoke, see the rain pelting the glistening tires, feel the triumph and fame.  The hair-raising music, composed by Hans Zimmer ("Man of Steel"), heightens the urgency of life-and-death situations.  

A rush of motion, sound and emotion, “Rush” is a winner.