Race car drivers come mainly from two schools. The first stream that the public and team owners love want to go fast whatever the risk, are willing to stick the nose of their vehicle into any opening gladly embracing the reality that when the flag drops to start a race there is a real possibility that they may not make it to the finish line. The other set are more technical aware of every engineering aspect of their vehicle. They were willing to push themselves and their vehicles but will not take on any undue or unnecessary risk. They tend not to be liked and a thorn in the sides of team owners, fellow driver's and the governors of the sport. The main characters in Ron Howard's Rush James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) are the leaders of each school at the highest level of racing in the mid-70's.
The film focuses on the battle for the World Championship in the 1976 Formula 1 season. Lauda and Hunt have a rivalry that dates back to the lower levels of the sport. They are the classic foils; Lauda the precision technical student of vehicles vs. Hunt's show up late, jump in the car and push your right foot to the floor approach. Howard captures the essence of a by gone era where a single guy with money could buy his way into a team or a group of friends backed by a fading noble title could piece together a car in the lower levels to eventually take their shot at Formula 1. Howard picked a story from the golden era of the sport featuring the massive cars with their V12 engines that were essentially time bombs on wheels at the peak of their power, speed and unpredictability.
Howard's realistic portrayal of the driving scenes gives the project an authentic look. The racing scenes convey the feel in the cockpit down to the vibrations that driver feels as they are behind the wheel. Howard displays on screen the sheer speed as the cars leave the pavement, draft and hurdle inches apart around the circuit. The other notable aspect of the film is the sound. The massive sound department created a film that roars. Revving engines, shifting gears, squealing tires, and breathtaking sequences of driver's loosing control and on occasion spinning into barriers.
The set decorators, art department special effect and visual effects team do a remarkable job of recreating the Circuits of the 1976 F1 season. Every details is identical from the helmets to look of the tracks to the sponsors signage around each circuit and stickers on the cars themselves. Two sets stand out above the others the designs for the Canadian and German Grand Prix.
Julian Day costume design team nails the racing suits and pit crew attire of the era. The stitching, sponsor logos and style of the fire suits match those of the actual drivers. The casual wardrobe of Hunt and his entourage are true to the time period. The wardrobe of Hunt's wife supermodel Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) is particularly identifiable of the time.
Anthony Dod Mantles Cinematography is a vital element of the piece. To make a successful racing movie the audience have to feel as if they sharing the driver's experience. Dod Mantle mounted small cameras on bumpers, engine blocks and helmets of the cars and actors to bring the viewer right into the actions. The look and feel of the blue rainy treacherous fateful day of the German Grand Prix is crafted through Don Mantle's lens.
Peter Morgan continues his current run of top level scripts on stories based on real people. In recent years his work has included screenplays for Frost/ Nixon, Last King of Scotland and The Queen. In his writing for Rush he presents the lifestyle of the racecar driver and has at his disposal James Hunt perhaps the driver that embraced the lifestyle to the fullest. A real life friend of Niki Lauda, Morgan presents the Austrian driver as a formable and determined man. He is not flashy but still willing to push himself sometimes beyond normal human limits to achieve his goals.
Rush is an hour and a half thrill ride that brings the viewer directly into the world of formula 1 racing. Even if you're not a Formula 1, racing or even a fan of sport the story of the rivalry between these two drivers, the adversity that they face and the steps that they take to overcome them is a compelling story. It's a film that I can highly recommend.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Rush | Ron Howard | U.S.A. / Germany/U.K. |123 Minutes.
Tags: Formula 1, World Championship, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, McLaren, Ferrari, Great Britain, Austria, 1976 German Grand Prix, Car Crash, Rehabilitation.