Should I Watch..? 'Rush'
What's the big deal?
Rush is a sporting biopic film released in 2013 and depicts the tense and bitter rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, coming to a head during the 1976 Drivers Championship. Directed by Ron Howard, the film stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl as Hunt and Luda respectively. The film's supporting cast include Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Stephen Mangan and Natalie Dormer. The film was favourably received by critics with many highlighting the performances from Hemsworth and Brühl as well as earning the praise of Lauda himself. Despite this and a co-ordinated marketing campaign, the film earned a disappointing $98.2 million worldwide although it also scooped plenty of award nominations from the likes of BAFTA, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.
What's it about?
Back in 1970, British playboy James Hunt is partaking in a Formula Three race at the Crystal Palace circuit in London when his attention is drawn by a new driver on the grid - Austrian Niki Lauda. Lauda's pace and will to win are obvious but his professional, analytical approach to racing rubs the hard-partying Hunt up the wrong way. After Lauda secures a drive in Formula One with Ferrari, Hunt is determined to beat him and persuades his friend and team-owner Lord Hesketh to start his own Formula One team. Away from the racing scene, Lauda begins a relationship with socialite Marlene Knaus while Hunt impetuously marries model Suzy Miller.
After Lauda wins the Formula One Championship in 1975, Hunt develops an obsession with beating his rival and signs for McLaren after the demise of Hesketh Racing. Now in a much more powerful car, their rivalry is renewed for the 1976 season - one which will see dramatic changes for both men. Hunt's marriage to Miller falls down after a public affair is exposed while Lauda's life changes forever after a catastrophic incident at the German Grand Prix at the notorious Nürburgring.
Alexandra Maria Lara
Release Date (UK)
13th September, 2013
Biography, Drama, Sports
What's to like?
Rush is unusually in-depth in terms of its realism, thanks in no small part to the amazing performances of Hemsworth and Brühl. It almost borders on impersonation with both actors inhabiting their roles so completely that you sometimes forget you're watching a drama and not a documentary. The racing scenes are also exceptional with the cars looking authentic and the mechanics of the car - pistons firing, snap gear changes and meaty-sounding exhausts - enliven the action even further. Sometimes, it is apparent that they are shooting in places that don't match the actual locations (I don't recall seeing the characteristic graffiti on the track at the Nürburgring, for example) but some special editing tricks more than compensate.
The rivalry between Hunt and Lauda has passed into Formula One folklore but the film manages to make the film as much about the men away from racing as much as it is about tyre pressures and aggressive over-taking. Both men are supported brilliantly well by Wilde and Lara who I last saw in The Reader but provides Brühl with a loyal and stalwart ally opposite Wilde's flighty and bitter supermodel. The most touching scenes in the film deal with Lauda's horrific burns to his face and lungs, his determination to get back into the car to thwart his rival and the effect his accident has on both him and Hunt.
- The film was warmly received by a pre-release audience of F1 supremoes including drivers, team bosses and Bernie Ecclestone himself. Howard described it as the sternest test of a film's realism since he screened Apollo 13 for a bunch of NASA personnel in 1995. Nevertheless, Rush received a standing ovation.
- Jochen Mass, the driver of the second McLaren car which overtook Hunt & Lauda at the German Grand Prix in 1976, was played by the man himself. Aged 66 at the time of filming, Mass enjoyed a nine-year career in Formula One and also won the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hour.
- Caldwell, played by Mangan in the film, was McLaren's chief engineer during the 1976 season. He also has a brief cameo in the film as an FIA official as well as serving as Howard's technical advisor during the shoot.
What's not to like?
You do occasionally sense the film's urge to inject some melodrama into proceedings but of course the film is going to use some artistic licence. Rush is a film that should only really draw fans of F1 or motorsport in general but the film cleverly avoids such niche appeal by dwelling on the characters rather than the racing itself. It works but anyone expecting any insight into Lauda's technical insight or Hunt's passion for winning might be slightly disappointed.
Otherwise, the film is broadly an enjoyable triumph. Despite only really enjoying the insight of one of the drivers involved, the film doesn't prioritise one driver over the other. In truth, neither men emerge as the star of the piece. Brühl's Lauda comes across as unfeeling and dispassionate, even after his accident while Hemsworth's portrayal of Hunt is one of a self-centred spoilt individual, albeit one who is more fun company than his Austrian rival. The only other thing I didn't enjoy - and I admit that this is the pettiest of petty points - was Dormer's high billing despite her fleeting (but memorable) appearance at the beginning of the film. It feels like the film is trying to ride the coat-tails of Dormer's TV appearance in Game Of Thrones.
Should I watch it?
Rush is the rarest of sporting dramas that wisely focuses on the drama than the sport, which most F1 fans will already know. The film hinges on the performances of its two stars but both put in a superb display as polar opposites locked in a potentially deadly duel. Looking, feeling and sounding (great soundtrack, by the way) like a documentary, the film is an enlightening look at one of the greatest stories in Formula One who has been underserved by Hollywood for so long.
Great For: fans of Formula One & motorsport, Hemsworth & Brühl's career, anyone who enjoys real-life dramas
Not So Great For: anyone who doesn't remember the dangerous days of motor racing, people expecting more racing scenes
What else should I watch?
There are no shortage of films based on actual sporting events from Will Smith's turn as the Greatest in Michael Mann's Ali, Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning appearance in The Blind Side and the recent success enjoyed by mockumentary I, Tonya. However, the beauty of sporting films is that sometimes the film doesn't have to adhere to actual events even if there can be a noticeable lack of drama as a result. Mean Machine is a soccer-based remake of Burt Reynold's football-based film The Mean Machine, which itself was remade as Adam Sandler comedy The Longest Yard but none of these have the power of The Blind Side, which depicts the upbringing and personal struggles of offensive lineman Michael Oher from poverty to becoming a first-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite a number of attempts, Formula One hasn't really had a decent film based on the sport yet until Rush. With the exception of excellent documentary Senna, the only notable effort came in 1966 with Grand Prix which saw James Garner compete in a fictional version of the 1966 Formula One championship. Although the film was praised for its racing scenes, the film floundered due to the predictable characters away from the race. And while it's not technically a Formula One film, Sylvester Stallone's Driven was meant to be but after he was shunned by most F1 teams, he instead turned it into a film about Champ Car Racing instead - a series which ended up folding in 2008.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox