There is just something about Formula 1 that translates so effervescently on to the big screen, with the intensity of the race, the deafening sound of the engines, the personalities off the track and the constant dancing with death that makes for pure cinema. Since the story of Senna has been extensively – and triumphantly – covered already, it does seem that the next best place to start is within the merciless feud between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, as Ron Howard presents his latest production, Rush.
Their personalities couldn’t be more different off the track, as the charming English playboy Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) adores living on the edge, opting for a flamboyant lifestyle alongside his model wife Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde). The Austrian Lauda (Daniel Brühl), on the other hand, is a methodical, pragmatic man, famed for his distinct lack of charisma – however on the track they are bitterly similar, as both men will do absolutely whatever they can to win a race. Such an intense rivalry hits boiling point during the 1976 season, when the pair appear to risk everything to be crowned world champion.
Though the publicity campaign may well proposition Rush as a feature predominantly focusing on Hunt, the main crux of this narrative revolves primarily around Lauda – and it’s all the better for it, as despite his lack of natural allure, he’s the more layered and interesting character of the two. Howard is evidently aware of this fact, as Brühl often narrates this tale on occasion, making the film more personal to his particular journey. Though reliant on two powerhouse – and incredibly accurate – performances from our leads, both really capturing all of the subtle idiosyncrasies of those they are portraying, Brühl steals the show with a truly outstanding performance. For all of Lauda’s misgivings and unfavourable personality traits, his performance ensures we remain sympathetic to his cause throughout.
Part of what is so appealing about this warts-and-all drama, is that there is no good guy as such, resulting in a very unbiased piece that ensures the viewer remains impartial regarding the rivalry, as we are witness to both the positive and damaging aspects to their flawed personalities. The structure is masterful, with the time being split evenly between the conflicting camps, as we follow two correlating stories and lives with equal footing. The rivalry itself is somewhat conventional, as the typical playboy versus the straight-laced conservative – however despite following every single cliché of the genre, given this is a true story, Howard is let off the hook. It’s a refreshing turn for the filmmaker, as he avoids the superfluous sentimentality for which he has become regrettably renowned – in exchange for a naturalistic and dramatic picture that has you completely engaged from start to finish.
Exhilarating in parts and immensely moving in others, Rush will trigger a host of emotions from the viewer, at times making for almost unbearable viewing, as an uncomfortable, foreboding atmosphere is prevalent throughout. Nonetheless, this has to be expected when bitter competitors are racing at upwards of 200mph – so prepare for the occasional heart-in-mouth sequence. I mean, they wouldn’t make a film about two guys who got on really well and had a nice, fair race, would they?