Ron Howard’s Rush is an electrically charged epic capturing the tension of two dueling gods colliding at the speed of lightning. Its portrayal of a great sporting rivalry is a technical triumph, building the most remarkable, pulsating stakes between a narrative which follows the human spirit’s instinctive competitive drive.
James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), the cocksure playboy and Niki Lauda’s (Daniel Brühl) methodical temperament arrive from opposing poles, both men vying for the same single accolade, the F1 Championship – the top of the mountain. Hemsworth plays Hunt like the Daniel Craig-era Bond, never far from a beautiful woman, living life without a care for the next day, on the edge of self-destruction. He carries an exceptionally British demeanor, a decision which first seems over-wrought before Hemsworth controls and molds the man’s persona as the film builds. Lauda might not have his rival’s smooth talk or blonde locks, but Brühl’s performances has a profound elegance through its unemotional determination. It’s a masterful portrayal of what it means to be stoic and headstrong. From his posture to his piercing eyes, Brühl embodies a risk-calculating mad man, prepared to put his life on the line to make a point not so much to the world, not even for an ego, but merely to himself.
The film’s technical aspects – it’s editing, sound design and most notably its cinematography are what elevates it to a real epic. Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography makes the film feel grandiose and timeless, giving electrifying racing shots all the character of paint thickly brushed upon a canvas perched upon an easel. The sound sucks up all the g-forces of these mechanic monsters. Some of the editing and creatively framed shots of the racing provide a beautiful and transcendent experience. The adrenaline feels real, fueled by the unnerving but wonderfully human rivalry that sets the film ablaze.
Peter Morgan’s no stranger to writing screenplays capturing different facets of what makes human rivalry (Frost/Nixon, The Damned United, The Deal) and here he draws another powerful, intense antagonism. It’s a film which may benefit from its audience knowing little about the real story, yet the strength of its composition makes its tension universal, regardless of knowledge or interest in motor racing. Rush feels existential, a remarkable portrait of competitiveness and the desire to succeed, to be the very best, no matter the cost.
Review by David Rank
Rush is out now in the UK and US. Running time 122 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).