by Brad Nelson 4/9/14
Formula 1 racing has always been a bit of a bloodsport. It is common to say, derogatorily, that people go to NASCAR races for the crashes. And that may be true, in part. The crashes and wrecks are an exiting part of the sport…and mostly a quite harmless part of the sport. The drivers are extremely well-protected inside their reinforced cages. Tragic accidents do happen, such as the death of Dale Earnhardt. But they are rare.
But Formula one is an entirely different thing. As this movie points out (which is set in the 1970’s), in Formula 1 racing, on average, two of 25 drivers could be counted on every year to be killed in a crash. Those are tough odds. One of the drivers in the film referred to his car as a coffin surrounded by explosive fuel. It’s a bit of a crazy sport where even the spectators have been known to be killed by flying tires and other debris.
Either because of this or despite this, Formula 1 racing has always been a big draw. This movie captures some of that on-track excitement. But this is not strictly a racing movie, per se. Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan have crafted a film that tells an interesting story. The racing is the venue, but the focus is on the drivers — two of them in particular, James Hunt (played by Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl).
Even having followed my share of Formula 1 racing, I admit that I didn’t know the details of this story so it was all excitingly new. I wasn’t sure who lived and who died (if anyone). I wasn’t sure who would win the trophy in the end. But what I was surprised by most of all was that someone had crafted a racing movie that actually had a human story that was not just a sideline — filler for in between the racing sequences.
In Rush, Hunt (the Brit) and Lauda (the Austrian) start the movie both as upstarts in Formula 3, trying to work their way up to Formula 1. And they are a contrast in styles. Lauda is intense, obnoxious, and lacking any charm. He’s all 100% racing all of the time.
Hunt, on the other hand, is a highly-skilled playboy…both on and off the track. He is like a running “go for the gusto” beer commercial. He’s as competitive as Lauda but is not as single-minded. He loves boozing and women too much…and they love him too.
It’s a great contrast of characters and this contrast is generally played well. It’s somewhat surprising to me that Howard didn’t go over-the-top. There’s not a lot of schmaltz in this film. And you’ll spend the first half of the movie laughing at the bluntness of Lauda and the playboy spirit of Hunt.
This is a sexy movie set in a sexy age. There are beautiful broads all over and Hunt is a magnet for them. Lauda, on the other hand, is all business and speaks his mind as bluntly as someone with Tourette’s.
The natural question is, Do I need to be a racing fan to enjoy this film? The answer is, “Not necessarily, but it wouldn’t hurt…and this is sort of ‘guy’ stuff.” But if you like racing films, this is one of the best. And if you like good characters, I would recommend this if only to see the superb performance of Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda who is a spittin’ image of him as well. And Thor is a hunk of fun as well.
Fast cars. Sex. Crashes. Competition. Trash talk. Larger-than-life characters. It’s all there to make this two-hour movie fly by seemingly at over 210 kph. • (3564 views)