WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
So, I just saw the Ron Howard movie Rush, which is based on the real-life story of the 1970s rivalry between Formula-One racecar drivers James Hunt from the UK and Niki Lauda from Austria. I have to say, going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. I went with my brother who is a film major, and his taste in movies usually differs from mine. But after having seen it, I have to say…I really liked it. It was fast-paced enough to keep it interesting, pithy enough to be amusing, and dramatic enough to ensure that the characters weren’t just 2-dimensional.
The film starts out with narrations from both Lauda and Hunt, detailing how they met and how their fierce rivalry began.
Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), is a brash, care-free playboy type who seems to have everything; wealth, good looks, women, and most importantly to him — popularity. Hunt is driven (no pun intended) by the love of his fans. He points out that the only thing he really knows how to do is drive racecars, and to live every moment as if it was his last.
Lauda, portrayed by Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Bastards) is very nearly the exact polar opposite from Hunt. Being all about business, all Lauda appears to care about is results, and he’s willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to achieve them. Humorless, blunt, and determined, Lauda attracts little popularity with his anti-social demeanor, even among his team-mates. But it is his determination that puts him in the lead on the racetrack.
After coming in first-place in several races with Hunt coming in second, the world begins to recognize Lauda (who was initially thought to be a rank amateur who bought his way into the big leagues) and the spotlight shifts to him and away from Hunt. This change in publicity causes Hunt to lose his major sponsors, and essentially puts him out of work. After weeks of wallowing depression, drinking, and estranging himself from his wife and his family, Hunt is finally offered a deal and a chance to get back on the track. However, his relief is short-lived as the now hot-shot Lauda wins nearly every race, and even resorts to petty semantics (such as calling Hunt’s vehicle illegal). And as the months wind down to the Grand Prix, Lauda pulls further and further ahead in points leaving Hunt in the dust.
Then, as fate would have it, in a highly-debated race with dangerous conditions, Lauda’s car spins out and bursts into flames, leaving him with burns all over his body. Though seemingly at death’s door, Lauda returns to the racetrack a mere six weeks later to attempt to make up for lost time. It is here that the relationship between Lauda and Hunt begins to change. Hunt feels chiefly responsible for Lauda’s accident as he insisted the race that caused his injuries go forward despite Lauda’s own warning that the conditions were too dangerous to drive in. And a mutual respect is born out the initial rivalry between the two drivers. Lauda accepts Hunts apologies, but assures him that though he may be, in part, responsible for the accident that scarred him, he was also responsible for getting him back in the car. Lauda’s determination to finish the World Championship and settle the rivalry was the one thought that kept him going.
When the day of the Japanese Grand Prix arrives, Lauda only trails Hunt by 3 points. However, like the race that injured him, the track conditions are extremely dangerous with torrential rains and heavy winds, but the race goes ahead as scheduled because of the media coverage. Throughout the race, Hunt holds a consistent lead, despite a few close advances from Lauda. But after only two laps, Lauda concedes the race, stating that the championship title is not worth his life. He proudly watches Hunt cross the finish line and solidify his position as the World Racing Champion.
While celebrating his victory, Hunt encounters Lauda once more, who urges him to focus on the next season of racing. Hunts responds by expressing his desire to continue racing, but also that all the success in the world is worth nothing if you can’t celebrate it and have fun. In the end, both Lauda and Hunt had as much to learn about themselves as the other. Lauda finishes the film saying that Hunt had nothing more to prove to anybody and one of the few men he had come to respect.
Obviously, the main part of the film is about racing. The relationship between Lauda and Hunt is indeed secondary but as the movie progresses, that’s all right. The racing scenes are exciting and fast-paced, with several different perspectives, probably the most notable being the first race that Lauda participates in after his accident. And when he not only finishes that race, but comes in third-place (something no one expected him to do), there’s actually a genuine feeling of contentment among the audience — it’s almost one of those moments when you actually want to stand and applaud. The musical score (done by Hans Zimmer), also adds a great deal to the film. So, while this film may have been about the rivalry that put two men at odds, it’s also about the friendship and understanding born out of the initial mistrust and dislike they had for one another.
So, in summary, I thought Rush was a very good movie. The character development was solid, the acting was genuine, the racing was exciting, and the effects were quite impressive. I’d give this film a solid 7/10.