Film review: Rush
It’s the one that we have all been waiting for. Ever since Ron Howard confirmed that he was making a film profiling the 1976 Formula One season, anyone with an interest in the sport has been counting down the days until Rush‘s release. With tonight seeing the world premiere take place in London’s Leicester Square, it is time for Richland F1 to put down the popcorn and tell you what we really thought of Hollywood’s latest shot at our beloved sport.
Like all good films, the storyline is crucial to the success or failure of Rush. Of course, this is based on a true story – that of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the early-to-mid 1970s – and it is one that Hollywood could never have dreamt up. The film does stay true to the epic battle between them in their junior years and in 1976 (the year that the film focuses on), yet this in no way hinders the course of the film. In fact, it will leave those without a knowledge of F1 history asking “did that really happen?”. There are slight deviances in places: Hunt’s disqualification from the British GP makes no appearance in the film, despite a good focus on his exclusion from the Spanish GP (where he was re-instated on appeal). On the whole though, the film is fairly accurate, failing to muddy the great rivalry in any respect.
The term ‘fever’ is banded about liberally in motorsport nowadays, but this film is jam-packed with it. Howard has perfected the sound of the sport in the 1970s, bringing back fond memories for fans of that age. All of the music used in the film is also from the era, once again setting the tone. The cars are replicas of those raced in 1976, with the six-wheeled Tyrell even making an appearance. The racing scenes are fantastic, leaving you on the edge of your seat amid an infusion of spluttering V12 engines, tyre smoke and utter nostalgia. Rush stirs a sensational feeling of real racing, making something of a mockery of modern DRS and KERS. Howard has perfected racing in the 70s, an era “when sex was safe and racing was dangerous.”
As this film is about James Hunt, you won’t be surprised to hear that there is a good deal of sex in the film. Played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers), Hunt is embodied in Rush as being a lothario, an eccentric and a ruthless character at times. The depiction of his split with first wife Suzy Miller is particularly heart-wrenching as Hunt wallows in the depths of Hesketh’s demise. However, his first chat with Lauda after the accident is warming, as is their final meeting at the end of the film following his championship win. Hemsworth ably depicts both sides to Hunt’s personality, albeit with one minor discrepancy: following Lauda’s accident, Hunt beats up a troublesome journalist. Although the viewer inside shouts “he had it coming!” (no denying it, he did), it just isn’t Hunt. As brilliant as Hemsworth’s performance is though, Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds) is the true star of the show. Depicting Lauda is no mean feat. However, Bruhl is simply brilliant in this role; reserved when necessary, but conveying the Austrian’s sharp wit that does him so well to this very day. His relationship with Marlene is similarly understated, juxtaposed by Hunt’s notorious attitude towards woman. Once again, Hollywood could not have wished for two more polarised protagonists.
Besides the racing scenes, there are a number of entertaining scenes that give the film a certain level of humorous charm. The initial meeting between Hunt and Lauda in Formula 3 at Crystal Palace sets the tone for the rest of the film: Hunt’s eccentricity against Lauda’s attention to detail. This also gives us the first glimpse of Lord Hesketh, played by Christian McKay, who is one of the break-out bit-part characters in the film, conveying how Hunt and Hesketh were a match made in heaven (coining “Sex! The breakfast of champions!” being one of Hesketh’s proudest moments). Also look out for very accurate portrayals of Emerson Fittipaldi, Enzo Ferrari, Mario Andretti and Teddy Mayer.
Tackling Lauda’s accident was one of Howard’s biggest challenges in Rush, but he has again dealt with the focal point in the story perfectly. Foreshadowing hints are dropped as Lauda refers to “survival instincts” throughout the film, yet this is exactly what is shown during his recovery. Although the scenes showing his recovery do shock the audience, this is the intention, conveying Lauda’s resolve and strength in getting back into the car just three races later. Aptly – besides the final round at Fuji – his comeback race is given the most attention. Those looking for a race-by-race breakdown of the 1976 season will walk away disappointed, but Rush is less about the racing and more about the story. Of course, the deciding race in Fuji is profiled, with the correlations between that race and the German GP vindicating Lauda’s decision to pull out. Following this though, there is one final scene where the two drivers meet at Bologna Airport. Albeit anti-climactic, the ending leaves the audience with a sense of satisfaction: Lauda is happy, Hunt is happy. It’s the Hollywood ending that the punter craves.
Predictably, the big question was “is it better than Senna?”. Frankly, they’re two different styles of film. Whereas Senna was a documentary, this is a movie in every sense of the word, even if it is based on a true story. The true test of Rush is whether or not it can transcend film fans. Do you have to like Formula One to like Rush? You don’t even have to like cars. This is an epic film that will be embraced by the F1 community as well as the movie world, and one that will be spoken about for years to come. The anorak-wearing F1 fans may claim that some areas are not accurately represented (as mentioned earlier, Hunt’s disqualification from the British GP) and grumble about Rush, yet they will still have to admit that this is a titanic film that stirs an even greater adoration for our sport.
To Rush, the ultimate Formula One film, Richland F1 awards ★★★★★ – five stars.
Images courtesy of Rush Movie UK.
Luke Smith is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Richland F1. Having started the website in March 2012, he has gone on to become one of the youngest members of the Formula 1 paddock after joining American broadcaster NBC Sports at the beginning of the 2013 season. Luke now works as the network's lead F1 writer, supporting the TV coverage on nbcsports.com. Luke's work has also been featured on NBC News, Yahoo! Sports, Driven Magazine and the Bahrain Mirror, and he has also appeared on CNBC's TV series "One Second in F1 Racing".