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Hollywood Insider Rush Review, Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Ron Howard, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Formula 1, Formula One, F1

Photo: ‘Rush’/Universal Pictures

Hemingway once said, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” I am inclined to agree with Hemingway. I imagine he said that given each sport’s proximity to death, how, each decision, each moment, each movement could be the athlete’s last, and, by choosing to face death on these terms, the athlete embodies that heroic, Nietzschean spirit: to shape the world with one’s will, to overcome the spirit of gravity, to do impossible, beautiful things, that will, which is always already a part of our being, whether we have the courage to will it thus or not; that’s what fascinates us about these sports, these athletes, who have the courage to live the fullest expression of life, not because they face death, but because they will it so; they embrace their will, afraid or not. 

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Of these sports, I hold motor racing in the highest esteem, not because it’s any more dangerous than the other two, but because I have some sense of it as a sport, some sense of the speed that these drivers produce on the racetrack; I think most of us do, if we’ve ever driven a little too fast on the highway/freeway; but, even then, the speeds that these drivers are able to reach exceed anything that you’ve probably ever experienced in a car, speeds almost impossible to imagine if you haven’t experienced it. And of all the types of motor racing that define the sport, Formula One, for me, is its ultimate expression, with speeds averaging near 200 mph (330 kmh) on racetracks like the roads we drive, twisting and turning, but, unlike the roads we drove, they race against 19-23 of the other top drivers in the world, while speeding near 200 mph, sometimes less than a foot away from another car.

‘Rush’ – Boys and Their Cars

‘Rush’ is a biopic about two Formula One drivers, Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl, and James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth, and their legendary decade long rivalry, and eventual friendship, during the 1970s, as they both raced to become world champion (because there can only be one world champion).

Like so many rivalries, the men represent everything that the other is not: Lauda, the analytical Austrian, who drives as clean as he is straight, and Hunt, the boozing Brit, who parties hard and drives even harder, and, like so many great rivalries, the men push each other to become better drivers, faster drivers, pushing each other toward becoming world champion; but, even more than that, the men push each other to see beyond racing, to see themselves in relation to racing because, as much as they are racecar drivers, who willingly stare death in the face, they are people too, people who love, are loved, people with lives as real as the machines they race in; and it’s this perspective that becomes increasingly important over the course of their careers, as each man must live a life outside of the driver’s seat as much as in it. 

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In this way, the film is more than just about Lauda and Hunt’s rivalry and subsequent friendship, more than just about cars and racing; yes, it’s about all of those things and giving yourself to something completely, entirely, absolutely; but it’s also about perspective, about knowing when to use that passion to propel you forward as much as knowing how to use that passion constructively; and, in this way, maybe we can become more like Lauda and Hunt, who embody these different relations to a singular passion, as they learn from each other. So, no, you don’t have to be familiar with motor racing or Formula One or Lauda or Hunt or their fateful 1976 season to get something out of the movie, to enjoy it as the fun, exciting ride that it is.

If you are familiar with any of the above though, then you’re in for a treat of a film, directed by the notoriously watchable Ron Howard, who brings the film’s vision of speed to life wonderfully, but back to Lauda and Hunt: both are played expertly by Bruhl and Hemsworth respectively, each bringing their man back to life thoughtfully, carefully: Bruhl catching Niki Lauda’s mousy mannerisms just right and Hemsworth carrying himself with all the macho bravado of James Hunt. In biopics especially, you, as the audience, have to believe that the actors on screen could be their real-life counterparts, and, here, that’s not an issue at all, to be pulled into Lauda and Hunt’s world by Bruhl and Hemsworth and live life to its redline. 

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Push the Pedal to the Metal

Speed. Speed. Speed. As I’ve said, while it’s a movie about more than friendship, more than cars, it’s still about those things, so it’s important that the film expresses that sensation so essential to driving, to racing: speed. It’s a sensation that the image always seems to be lacking, that the image finds hard to express. How can an image express that feeling, that feeling of going fast that the stomach, the body knows so well?

When a film is able to capture this sensation though, you know, and, here, you know: it’s time for take-off. It’s funny then that here the image itself doesn’t actually produce this sensation really; it’s the sounds that the image contains (or maybe it’s the other way around?); they produce that holy sensation of speed: the almighty roar of a Ford Cosworth V8 igniting, the high-pitched whine of Ferrari’s flat-twelve engine, as it rips across the racetrack; these are the sounds that make you feel like you’re flying through the film’s images.

So really it’s Howard’s sound design team that make the story possible because without the proper sound to give the images their speed there is no movie: you can’t have a movie about racing without speed, and if there’s no movie about racing, then there cannot be a story about Lauda and Hunt’s historic racing rivalry. And, of course, the ever omnipresent Hans Zimmer does the score for the movie, which is felt full-throttle throughout, so that helps too. 

Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase, a huge fan of ‘Rush’, attended the BAFTA screening of the film in London in 2013 with Chris Hemsworth and Ron Howard. With glowing praises for the film, Ambroase remarks, “I remember when the lights went back up, the credits rolled and I simply sat there – stunned. Stunned in the most beautiful way possible. CINEMA had just happened in front of me as ‘Rush’s is a rarity in today’s world where a barrage of formulaic content accosts us. Every aspect of the film is pitch perfect. This inspiring film is one of Ron’s greatest and also a gem in the history of Cinema itself. Hemsworth was perfectly cast for his role and what a performance! That was one of Chris’s first serious drama performance. Chris is the opposite of the arrogant James Hunt, so when he looked nervous at that Bafta screening, I remember telling him that he gave an outstanding performance and he should do more serious drama – to which he responded. “Thanks dude!” I firmly told Howard that he is definitely one of the people keeping Cinema alive in all its brilliance.

The true powerhouse of this film is Daniel Bruhl – this incredibly and breathtakingly powerful actor bowled everyone over with a nuanced award winning performance. I had previously seen him in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and ‘Ladies in Lavender’ – but ‘Rush’ is the film which truly showed the greatness of the ACTOR Daniel Bruhl. ‘Rush’ is a must watch, whether you are fan of racing and Formula One or not. This film is a masterpiece for Howard’s pristine direction, Bruhl and Hemsworth’s impeccable performances and the banter between them, the storyline, the pacing, the racing sequences, the rivalry, the brotherhood, the friendship, the spirit imbued within and… the romance. Yes – the romance. When you watch it – you will see it. This film is dripping with romance. ‘Spoiler alert’ – there are two scenes that tug at my heart the most – and I know all viewers will agree. The two scenes are when a reporter bad mouths Lauda (Bruhl), Hunt (Hemsworth) beats up the reporter for being horrible to his rival. And the scene where Lauda chooses his spouse over his own ego, his passion and his need to win. Thank you to every single person involved with this film. Thank you for keeping the gift of Cinema alive.”

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Still, speed without direction, well, that’s not a movie at all; that’s just sensation, and it’s the always dependable Ron Howard who brings it all together. You all know him; you’ve seen his movies: ‘Apollo 13’, ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, and so on; you’ve probably seen them all many times over; I know I have. It takes a particular skill to craft an endlessly watchable film, and Howard possesses that skill, and he skillfully uses it here. The biopic, as a film genre, has a reputation for slipping into tedium: how much of this person’s life must I show? What events of this person’s life shaped who they are? What events led to other events? There are so many more questions that must be asked, and so many more permutations to those questions; but Howard cuts through all of that, focusing the narrative on a singular theme, allowing story and sensation each their moment of glory in the film.

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Final Thoughts

You may never set foot in a Formula One car in your life; you may never race around a track at 200mph; you may never win a world championship; but you can will yourself forward; you can give yourself to life fully; you can embrace the racing spirit inside of you to create or do something meaningful because, in life, there isn’t just one world champion. As time passes, slowly at first and then all at once, streaming steadily toward the end, you’ll reflect on life, as we all do, and we’ll all wonder the same thing: did I really live? I have a friend who dated this skateboarder, whose life-philosophy was simple enough: go fast. So live, and go fast like Lauda and Hunt.

If you’re excited for the next Ron Howard movie, ‘Thirteen Lives’, about the 2018 rescue of the Thai football team that was trapped in a cave, you’ll have to wait awhile to see it, as filming just started a month ago. As for Daneil Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth, you can see the former in Matthew Vaugh’s ‘The King’s Man’ this December and the latter in Netflix’s ‘Escape from Spiderhead’ on Netflix later this year.

Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Director: Ron Howard ⏐ Screenplay by: Peter Morgan

Producers: Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Brian Oliver⏐ Director of Photography: Anthony Dod Mantle

By Zackary Silberman

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