Based on the true story, Chris “Thor” Hemsworth stars as James Hunt – a Formula One race car driver and big time playboy working his way up the ranks in the 1970’s. He has talent, but James likes to party more than he studies, practices or improves his cars.
However, one rival, Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), seems to inspire Hunt to be all he can be, and the two find themselves battling to become the Formula One champion, at any cost.
Hemsworth might be the big star you see in all of the commercials, and his portrayal of Hunt is what will sell some tickets, but it’s the Niki Lauda story that makes Rush so good.
While a bit cliché, and even though the truth is not as black and white, writer Peter Morgan and director Ron Howard set up the Lauda/Hunt rivalry as the classic battle between opposites who hate each other.
Hunt is the passionate one about life. Lauda is the cold calculating pro.
Hunt is the charming rascal, the bad boy blonde Adonis all the ladies love.
Lauda is a rat faced workaholic with as much sex appeal as Bill Nye The Science Guy.
You get the picture.
However, Bruhl is great at making Lauda a likable jerk, which gives Rush a bit more depth and complexity. Sure, Niki is not the life of the party, and he is a stickler for the rules and working hard, but Bruhl helps us admire the champ’s work ethic, drive and determination, no matter how strident he might be, especially when the racer has to face the biggest challenge any of us could ever imagine.
Yet, you also like Hunt because Hemsworth and Hunt might be the envy of every dude in the audience, but Hemsworth is able to charm you into thinking he is just a lucky guy who is living life to the fullest (and, sometimes, naughtiest).
Best of all, Morgan and Howard showcase the rivalry to demonstrate to the audience how each one pushed each other’s buttons, but brought out the best in each other. The audience can appreciate a very spirited competition that might get a bit rough at times, and it’s the rough moments that make for drama and entertainment.
Director Howard also finds ways to grab us visually. The audience gets to feel like they are flying around the track, often from the perspective of the driver and the car, while he graphically and grippingly shows us Lauda’s physical destruction after a major accident (like you didn’t figure that out from the commercials) and the treatment he has to undergo to recover.
Rush provides lots of thrills and tension at the end with a nice twist on THE BIG RACE concept.
Rush is rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.