Dir: Ron Howard
Cert: 15 • USA: 123 min • Exclusive Media, Cross Creek, Imagine Ent • January 27, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
“Men love women, but even more than that, men love cars”. And so we are invited into the intense environment of Formula 1 racing. From the get-go, the risks of speed racing are hammered home. A frightening statistic noted early on makes us aware that in every racing season, twenty-five drivers will start out but by the end two will have died behind the wheel. Whether this estimation has been verified or not, the perils of the sport cannot be ignored; these men are willing to chance their death to satisfy their passion for speed.
Rush chronicles the real life rivalry between drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the ‘70s, in the battle for the title of World Champion. The film spans six years in which the two doggedly stepped on each other’s toes on personal and professional levels. The film sets up the two as polar opposites; the suave and quintessentially British Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) in one corner and the steely and meticulous Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) in the other. There’s no question why they rubbed each other up the wrong way, irrespective of the competition at hand. Hunt is the typical playboy meandering between sex, women and alcohol, whilst the depiction of Niki shows him as a man taking life and himself seriously.
In fact, it is the portrayal of the steely Austrian driver that holds the film together. The confrontational plot line between the drivers opens up into a character sketch. It is Lauda’s self-critical personality that highlights how his strongest competitor was not necessarily his opponent, but himself. The high-pressured environment appears to perpetuate his feelings of needing to prove himself to others. The burden he places on himself brings the film’s emotional depth and dynamic, especially when he must face the consequences of a fatal accident on the racetrack.
Although this is the most satisfying aspect, it is also one which could been explored further. The film is held back by Chris Hemsworth’s performance, which appears deliberate and self-conscious in adopting the cocksure persona. He seems unable to relax into the role, overcompensating to the point where character is superseded by a nauseating caricature. Its distracting to watch; making an audience very aware that we are watching someone acting, which defeats the purpose of a film based on true events. Without it, the storyline could have had more room for character development.
The obvious message of the film is that sometimes the people we don’t like or get on with in life are the ones that we can learn from and potentially provoke the best in us. It’s a challenging lesson to learn and is the perfect vehicle to steer the film. Unfortunately and unnecessarily so, this motif is explained and divulged by the two rivals in the final scene. It’s irritating as it knocks the dust out of what was a moderately enjoyable watch and ends on a blubby conversation about an idea that was blatant throughout.
Overall, Rush ebbs between some decent moments to scenes that would feel more at home in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Although there are a number of aspects that keep it from being as enticing as it could have been, it does reveal some of the behind-the-scene politics, scornful media interviews and how the aggravated rift occurred between the two in chasing the same dream. Sadly, the standard here is below par and is unable to deliver what the title suggests, failing to cross the finishing line in first place.