There were quite a few people who were expecting Rush to get a few Oscar nominations, but in the end it was shut out. It’s a shame as it’s a damn fine movie and should have got some kudos, even if it was only in the production design and cinematography departments, as it does such a great job of recreating 1970s Formula 1 racing.
The film tells the true story of the intense rivalry between the British James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria’s Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). They first meet in Formula 3, where it’s clear they are very different people. Hunt is a playboy whose life is about sex, drugs, partying and being everyone’s friend. Lauda meanwhile is far more serious, seeing racing as being about business. He spends his time learning the mechanics of the cars, as well as showing off an arrogant streak that ensures none of the other drivers like him that much.
The sense of antagonism builds after Lauda literally buys his way into Formula 1 despite being a relative rookie, followed shortly by Hunt, who arrives thanks to having aristocratic team owners with more money than sense (and perhaps less money than they think). It eventually leads to the 1976 season when Lauda is driving for Ferrari and Hunt is the star of McLaren. Amidst accusations of dirty tricks that cause Hunt to have to rebuild his car, Lauda looks like he’s heading towards a second World Championship, but then a terrible accident threatens to change everything.
Ron Howard took on Rush without knowing all that much about F1, and that’s perhaps a good thing as without having conceptions of what the sport is today, it allows him to better take us back to how things were in the 70s. Without overplaying things, the movie shows us what an exciting yet dangerous time it was in motorsports. Drivers were pushing the edge, and the cars had few safety features – and they were well aware of that – which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.
With a script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), the film does a great job of evoking the era, as well as setting up the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda, who are polar opposites on the surface but share unexpected similarities underneath. In the end their differences end up spurring one another to greater heights.
The first half of Rush is a little slow, but the time it spends introducing the characters and the reasons they race is well worth it once the 1976 season gets going. Here the tension is ramped and up the movie really does become a thrilling watch. The on-track action is extremely well-handled, helped not just by the fact it’s pretty exciting, but by the fact the design, effects and even the way the film is coloured really make it feel like you’re there in the 70s. And it’s because the movie takes the time to set things up properly that it works as well as it does.
It’s also one of those cases where certain things that happen in the film might have felt preposterous and contrived if they weren’t true. You could be forgiven for thinking the movie was playing fast and loose with the truth just for dramatic effect, but all the bits that seem the most extreme are actually true.
It is unfortunate that the female characters are given pretty short shrift. Olivia Wilde is drafted in to play Hunt’s wife, but it was hardly worth bothering casting her as she’s only there for a couple of scenes and, as with all the other women in the movie, is purely a prop for the men. It may be the 70s and set in a testosterone filled world, but the female characters do feel underserved.
Except for that though it is a very good film, led by strong performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, who both seem to be having a great time in their roles. Ron Howard also steers things with a lot of skill. They’re all helped by a great story, which will draw you in even if you’re not a big fan of F1.
As it’s a movie with a great look, it’s well worth trying to view it on Blu-ray, which really shows off the film’s 70s feel and takes you right onto the track with excellent picture quality. There are also a couple of really good special features. The first is a multi-part ‘making of…’ featurette that takes an interesting look into the film and how everyone got involved in it. There are various fascinating nuggets, such as how the production was helped by the fact there are enthusiasts who keep and maintain 1970s F1 cars, allowing the moviemakers a level of authenticity it might have been difficult to achieve otherwise.
The other main feature takes a look of the real story of Rush, including interviews with Niki Lauda and others who were there at the time. It’s interesting to watch and shows that while the film does take a few liberties, in all the most important aspects it sticks to the truth and is all the better for it.
Overall Verdict: After a slow start, Rush certainly revs up to be a high-octane, exciting trip into an extremely well recreated 70s world of Formula 1, which has a great story to tell.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac