RUSH was a revelation for Formula One fans of a younger generation. While films like “Grand Prix” were mostly well-recieved, there hasn’t been a drama about Formula One for quite some time, so when it became known that Ron Howard was directing a film about the epic 1976 season, people got excited.
It’s been a mixed bag for RUSH during the awards season. Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations were frankly unsurprising, but missing out on a win for the former (we will find out the results of the latter on February 16), and on even a single Oscar nomination was. Following this disappointment, there has been considerable backlash from Formula One fans. Certainly, there is much to commend the film for: Ron Howard was at his absolute best as director, while Daniel Bruhl put on an astoundingly believable and emotional performance as Niki Lauda. Hans Zimmer also put together a beautiful original score while the cinematography was, in my opinion, second to none. The way Ron Howard and his team achieved incredibly intimate shots of the drivers inside their helmets and inside the inner workings of the cars was breathtaking, and added to an already thrilling storyline.
But there is a relatively simple reason why RUSH was overlooked this season, and it centers around the fact that the average movie-goer, much less movie critic, isn’t aware of Formula One in real life. The true genius of RUSH and Ron Howard was that a thrilling season of a relatively obscure sport was adapted into a compelling and moving drama. Any Formula One fan is able to see this. But those not aware of the sport find themselves struggling to connect.
Formula One, in my obviously biased opinion, is a viable platform for cinema. There is a plethora of scenarios and events in relation to the sport that provide excellent story lines. In order for Formula One to get the credit it deserve in popular culture, more movies need to be made. Not made just for the sake of getting the sport out into the masses’ psyches, but made so that the ever-evolving sport can be remembered not just by the races themselves, but by the stories of the people involved. Results are boring. No one remembers a season by the races’ winning margins. They are but a small part in an vast narrative. You remember the races by how the come about.
That was RUSH’s greatest accomplishment. It took you deep inside a very intricate and, nowadays, often emotionless sport, and gave you human performances from two very different characters. It gave the sport a personality. If Formula One is to gain significant traction on the silver screen, ambitious directors need to take more risks. Ron Howard did, and he exposed millions of people to a fascinating and thrilling world they otherwise may have never been exposed to. Now it’s only a matter of time until his, and hopefully others’, efforts are recognized.