The Review: In over 60 years of official competition, there have only ever been a handful of movies about what is one of the worlds most popular sports. It’s not through lack of inherent drama – just the last few seasons of F1 alone we’ve seen a no hoper team come from being scrapped to winning the world title, a championship won on the last corner of the final race of the season and racers walk away from what should have been life ending crashes. But whether it be the subject matter often being almost too extraordinary or the fear that recreating the sport on screen could almost be as expensive as running a team for a year, in general cinema has steered clear of the sport.
So with RUSH arriving in cinemas, from Imagine Entertainment, Working Title Films and in the hands of director Ron Howard, have they achieved what few had dared challenge previous and created a heart pounding thrill ride of a movie or was the task too much for what is a modestly budgeted British film from a company best known for making Hugh Grant rom coms?
RUSH tells the extraordinary story of the 1976 Formula 1 world championship, and the merciless 1970s rivalry between the cool, calm playboy Brit James Hunt and methodical, driven Austrian Niki Lauda. Starring Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, director and former Happy Days star Ron Howard has crated a film of such brilliance that, much like documentary Senna, it transcends interest of the sport it focus on and presents what is one of the best performed and most gripping stories of the year so far. It helps that this truly was a fascinating year – from Lauda’s near fatal crash, to behind the scenes political manoeuvrings and some of the most fierce on track racing ever witnessed in the sport, a year if someone wrote it down without the facts to back it up you’d probably never believe it.
But is this anything more than a love letter to the glory days of a sport now controlled by corporations and banks? Yes, in fact whilst the racing is expertly handled and form some of the films most intense moments, it’s the story of two men’s bitter rivalry (and friendship) that sit firmly at the heart of this story. Hemsworth, who no doubt will set hearts a fluttering all bare chest and flowing haired, proves he more than a man with a large hammer and tights matching his charismatic subject matter James Hunt smile for smile. At the same time not to be outdone Bruhl, whose credits mostly include European films few have seen other than a turn in QT’s Inglorious Basterds delivers a performance layered and emotionally grabbing that you just know he will rightfully end up with a trophy cabinet of awards come silly season next year.
The positives don’t stop there: From the lovingly recreated period detail (and not just the numerous F1 cars dragged out if retirement and museums to once again roar for the crowds), to the sense of danger at every turn, Howard and his team recreate the era almost perfectly and when the cars do race, the film pulls no punches. Actual arial photography taken at the time, mixed seamlessly with some of the most innovative racing cinematography ever placed on screen, every gear change, every button push is a thing of beauty. RUSH’s cinematography (by Anthony Dod Mantle) is genuinely a thing of beauty and does well to hide what is, by all accounts, a low budget by Hollywood terms. But don’t forget this ISNT a Hollywood movie. It may be directed by Ron Howard but this is a Working Title film. A British film. Okay so at $40million USD it’s the biggest film working title have put together, but this is more British that Potter or Bond could ever hope to be.
In short RUSH is a directorial triumph and probably Howard’s best movie for some years.
Also special note should go to Peter Morgan, writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon, for a excellent screenplay that allows the story to take shape through the characters whilst allowing the actors enough space to add their own flair to the film.
Is the film perfect? No. It takes liberties with actual events, being more a story inspired by the truth rather than representing the truth and at times it’s both predictable and obviously when it strays from what is obviously the facts. But these things rarely matter against the backdrop of a film that tells the story of one of sports best rivalries, presenting in what is probably the best film of the year so far.
Like Senna, RUSH tells a story that transcends the sport that works as the backdrop, a story of dedication, desire, competition, death defying acts and men willing to give everything for the glory of success. In doing so it opens itself to a wider audience that it could have hoped and, when awards season comes, should hopefully see itself recognised accordingly.
Reviewed By: Phil Hobden
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