Movie Review: Rush

Rushby 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. • (3653 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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8 Responses to Movie Review: Rush

  1. Glenn Fairman says:

    Contrary to what a bunch of my friends thought, I really liked the film. The characters played off each other very well, making what would normally be a boring film about racing actually enjoyable.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      People should feel free to disagree about matters of personal taste. But my regard for your tastes in movies went up a notch.

      My only caveat about this movie is that I have no idea if the events are true. I always assume that the overall is true, that there was a race car driver named “Niki Lauda” and he was from Austria. But whether James Hunt roughed up that reporter in the way he did (a high point for me), I don’t know. And I’ve read that the animosity between these two drivers was played up for dramatic purposes and that they were really pretty good friends. Again, I don’t know.

      Given that Ron Howard has a record of being unable to tell fantasy from reality, I honestly don’t know. But it was a fun movie to watch, nonetheless.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t watch NASCAR, but as for crashes, MAD did a parody of that notion decades ago. It involved cars racing on a typical track — but the track also was mined, so that an explosion might happen at any moment (and the cars didn’t move very fast). They had an interview with a spectator who was very pleased at the much larger number of crashes. So the idea that (many) people watch for that has been around a while.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Oh, I can tell you as a long-time NASCAR fan that the wrecks are one of the highlight of these events — that and the last-lap battles for the lead. After all, how much excitement is there in cars going around and around in the same circle for hours on end? It’s a guilty pleasure because people do get hurt in such wrecks. But they are now so commonly unharmful that it’s not the guilty pleasure it used to be.

      I’ve never been to a NASCAR event. I’ve always watched them on TV. People go to these things for all kinds of reasons. It’s a party. It’s loud and noisy. It’s a chance to scarf down some good food. It’s a chance to drink a little beer. It’s a chance to see cool cars. One might even camp out in the infield. Some of these infields for the superspeedways are so large they have golf courses inside them.

      And there’s just that general carnival atmosphere where you’re at a place where other people want to be and exciting things happen.

      But I haven’t watched a race pole-to-pole in years. The Good Old Boys were a lot of fun to watch. But now this is little more than a corporate showcase where the drivers are all corporate-correct cookie-cutter cut-outs of one another.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have followed F1 since Graham Hill and Jim Clark placed 1st and 2nd in the Indy 500 in 1966. I think Clark was the greatest F1 of all time. I can remember hearing of his death on the radio after Sunday night church.

    I studied in Austria in the mid 1970’s and worked for a man who was friendly with the Lauda family. I kept an eye on Niki and was amazed the way he came back after the horrific accident he had. It is said he was the first man to really bring science to the sport and that he walked every circuit before every race to see all the different problems which each presented. He is a very intelligent fellow who comes from a prominent Viennese family. And has a very typical Viennese accent.

    It is absolutely true that James Hunt was a good looking playboy and exceptional F1 driver. But Lauda has had a reputation for being something of a womanizer as well. I was following the sport very actively during the period of the film.

    Today’s F1 is much safer than before. Not only did Clark die (in an F2 race) but off the top of my head I can recall Pete Revson (heir to the Revlon fortune) Phil Donahue, Jochen Rindt, Ayrton Senna and Gilles Villeneuve died from crashes. And as I recall, most died because of mechanical failures of some sort.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Brad’s comment about truth as portrayed by the Arts is interesting. Plato held that art was thrice removed from reality, and in that distance we run the risk of educating people to a lie. Ergo, it is not the details that are so much of interest here, but the themes and ideals that art arrays before us. The arts’ great power to emotionally move a people with its selective imagery can be as benign as any fairy tale, or as monstrous as “Triumph of the Will.” Being on guard for the subtle lessons that the arts give us may profit us in the long run.

  5. Christopher Harris says:

    I guess I will watch this one now.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Although he drove after the period on view in the film “Rush”, I just saw that it has been twenty years since Ayrton Senna died in a crash at Imola. It is cliche’ to say it, but I really can’t imagine where the time went.

    Many consider Senna to be the greatest F1 driver of all time. I am not sure that is the case as there have been some really great ones such as Fangio, Schumacher, Lauda, Stewart and my choice for no. 1, Jim Clark. But there is no doubt, whatsoever, to anyone who has followed the sport, that Senna was, far and away, the greatest “wet” driver in history. How he could plow through the rain with speed and skill was otherworldly. Nobody touched him in such conditions. And I say this as someone who was not his biggest fan.

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