Formula One racing certainly has had its fair share of thrills, spills and excitement, and a good amount of controversy; but 1976 seemed to have it all – fuelled, in particular, by the rivalry between McLaren’s enigmatic, playboy driver, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth – The Avengers, Thor) and Ferrari’s World Champion driver, the pragmatic, highly disciplined Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl – Inglorious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum). The start of that year saw Hunt having his Spanish win taken away from him because his car’s tyres were supposedly over regulation size; August witnessed Lauda’s famous near-fatal crash (brilliantly re-created in this film, as are all the depicted races); and the final race of the year in Japan gave Hunt his long sort after win over Lauda (but only after two controversial moments in the same race).
Howard, along with screenwriter, Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) allows us to understand the passion and need for speed that Formula One drivers have and require – cleverly handled by voice over’s from the revved-up rivals. Howard and Morgan don’t just concentrate on the on-field battles, but take the audience off-track for more than a glimpse of Hunt’s and Lauda’s lives: after all, how can one understand what drives a racer to face potential death every time he competes if one can’t understand what drives them as an individual in their personal life.
Hemsworth and Bruhl are superb as the iconic F1 drivers, with both bearing uncanny resemblances to Hunt and Lauda, and each capturing their counterparts nuances effortlessly: Hemsworth gives the viewer Hunt’s huge ego with nice touches of roguish likability all delivered in a beautifully clipped English accent; whilst Bruhl is extremely Teutonic and precise, but with an inner softness that Lauda’s public weren’t really privy to.
Cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, The Last King Of Scotland) gives the film a very seventies feel, with some fine authentic trackside shots and some truly memorable screen moments such as the very first time Lauda puts his driving helmet on while recovering in hospital after his devastating crash.
Rush should appeal not only to F1 fanatics and rev-heads, but to anyone who enjoys and appreciates good film-making. It has humour, drama, tension and is highly entertaining.
Rush speeds along smoothly to the finish line with glorious results.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Rating out of 10: 10