There’s no doubt that Ron Howard can make great films. His movies have won numerous awards and have starred some of the biggest names in the business at one point or another. That said, with only a few exceptions such as ‘Apollo 13’ or ‘Parenthood’, most of his movies tend to be forgettable after the first year or so and begin to collect dust in people’s movie collections. Unfortunately, that’s also the case with ‘Rush’. People may love it at first, but I doubt that anybody will mention it next year.
Much like Howard’s first film as director, 1977’s ‘Grand Theft Auto’, ‘Rush’ is a race car movie. However, instead of focusing on the races, this one hones in on the two main characters and their transformations at the height of their careers.
The film tells the true story of the rivalry between Formula One champions James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) in the 1970s. The incredibly handsome Hunt leads a playboy lifestyle and is not above drinking, doing drugs or having sex with multiple women right before a big race. He takes dangerous risks and is a superb driver, which leads him to win quite a bit. On the other hand, Lauda comes from a very wealthy Austrian family that has disowned him for going into racing. He’s the complete opposite of Hunt, and is only concerned with winning and working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has no time for friends, love or parties.
Naturally, these two collide in more than one way and actively dislike one another. However, each respects the other’s amazing skill in driving. After several races, Lauda is severely injured in a crash on the track and receives major burns to his leg and face, after which Hunt indirectly helps him return to racing in under two months.
Howard’s camera follows these two daredevils through their successes and failures. We forge bonds and gain respect for both, even despite their faults. Bruhl is phenomenal as Lauda. People used to call the real Lauda a rat because he had bucked teeth and mousey face, and acted like a rude prick most of the time. Nevertheless, when Lauda recovers in the hospital, Bruhl gives an exceptional performance. As the doctors vacuum out his lungs with a long pole, or when Lauda tries to put his helmet on over his newly burned face, the actor makes us feel the character’s pain.
Of course, Hemsworth is the Thor-like god we expect him to be. He’s deeply charismatic, funny and devastatingly handsome, but there’s real pain behind all the charm and beauty when his widely publicized marriage doesn’t work out and his friends turn on him. One of my favorite scenes comes when Hunt brutally and deservedly attacks a member of the press for asking Lauda how his wife can look at his ugly face now that he’s burned.
‘Rush’ is a solid film with two brilliant performances from Hemsworth and Lauda. It’s worth the price of a movie tick and I expect decent returns at the box office, but it rarely feels fresh and the racing scenes aren’t particularly suspenseful.