Movie Review: 'Rush' (2013)

What could draw two men, so diametrically opposed into a universe where they are constantly in each other’s orbit? In the case of Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), it was the sport of Formula 1 racing.

A battle of wills and ideology plays out on the race track of the 1970’s, in "Rush" which is based on an amazingly true story. It is a finishing line that not only decides who the better driver is but of whose course of action in life, is the right one.

Austrian Niki Lauda is blunt and bold, approaching life with a laser focused, intensity. Whereas the British James Hunt is brash, fun lovingly, laid back and a keen womanizer.

Ron Howard’s sporting opus examines the art of competition, the elevation that rivalry can have on one’s performance quality and how two people, extraordinarily juxtaposed can learn to respect one another.

How competitors approach the art of winning, is an explored facet, Hunt wanting to win by whatever means necessary and Lauda looking for that clear, by the book, victory.

Howard keeps the film flowing as a human drama, sports actioner, fully realized character study and even sprinkles in, a dash romance. 

Whilst Howard’s direction strikes the match, it is Peter Morgan’s exhilarating script that works as the accelerant. He has intricately weaved a plethora of moments you want to see over and over again, into the narrative.

Memorable scenes abound, first with Lauda’s demonstration of his mechanical prowess, his “rat” comeback monologue and a moment impressing “the girl”. 

Yes, there was a common thread among all of those must-see moments: Lauda. He truly is the star of this film and with a persona such as his; there could be no other option. A real life man such as he; does not come around every lifetime and thanks to that "Rush" possesses a character few films are fortunate enough to study.

To Morgan’s screenwriting credit, he never backs off from portraying the unbridled essence of Lauda, a man driven by perfection, a strong sense of self, and a bracing honesty. He is not a mainstream subject and extraordinarily inspirational people should not and cannot be.

He bares the signature of being a refreshingly un-Hollywood figure; a personality devoid of the major studios' often championed sugary and watered down clichรฉ of how such a figure should be presented.

Transmitting Lauda to viewers is actor Daniel Bruhl, who leads the film in a stunning performance that expertly crafts the many dynamics of a complex man into a dimension that is exquisitely tangible.

It is a performance charged with passionate force and brazen directness. He never tries to be likable and he doe not have to, he simply is. Bruhl's presence is commandingly electric, jolting the film to attention whenever he’s on-screen.

The script offers him a change of pace and moments to demonstrate range in the role and while, he portrays Lauda's harsher demeanor, he evenly steps up to the plate in some softer moments. The emotional texturing he brings to Lauda is outstanding, never becoming complacent, in a single expressive rhetoric.

As well as he handles telling off Hunt in one scene, he equally captures the romantic fluster of a burgeoning attraction to love interest Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) with a subtle display of enrapture, portrayed in a charming car trip scene.

Alexandra Maria Lara (Marlene) is a scene stealer herself, bringing a tender femininity and smoothness that compliments the rough edges of Bruhl’s characterization and the two share a notable chemistry, which is a seldom witnessed treat in current film.

If there is only one shortcoming in the film, it is that you want to see even more culled from their dynamic. Lara is simply dazzling, using her expressions to overcome a lack of speaking lines; she conveys the extremes of conservative restraint, fear and tenacious devotion.

The rivalry between Lauda and Hunt remains the central story of the film, never straying too long from the antics of Hunt. Hemsworth’s portrayal is charismatic and he has the easier task, as the chill playboy, nabbing clever one-liners.

It is certainly his best and most affecting performance to date and he and Bruhl share a convincing on-screen bond. Olivia Wilde comes in with a blink and you missed it performance that is commendable.

The casting directors deserve major kudos for their work casting this production. The striking physical similarity between the actors and their real-life counterparts is stunning. Another integral role in the film is the music composed by Hans Zimmer, a masterful work that is as custom fitted to the story as a Formula 1 car is for the racetrack.

“Rush” is one of the rare sporting film masterpieces that juggles many aspects of the human endeavor. Even if you know nothing about Formula 1 racing, you will have a newfound knowledge and appreciation for the sport, as an art form and metaphor for life.

Howard has always had a knack for portraying real-life giants and here is no exception, conjuring yet another film that casts a long shadow. Rating: 9.8/10