It is hard to believe this story is real. Those of you who might be sent running in the other direction by a film about racing may want to reconsider your previous inclinations. Set in the 1970s, the film exploits our natural tendency to white-wash the past. The beauty of Rush lies in its delicate portrayal of the human element in racing, and the rivalry between two diametrically opposed racers: English playboy James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth, also seen in Thor), and the methodical, joyless modern professional, Austrian Niki Lauda. Despite a fantastic screenplay by Peter Morgan, and performances to match, not to be overlooked are the stunning visuals that transform Rush into a spectacle: thrilling race scenes that put the viewer in the driver’s seat, quick editing and the screaming sound of engines to give a full sense of the speed and danger that these men experienced, and with none of the safety regulations in place like today. Indeed Lauda, played excellently by Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds), at various points likes to remind us of the chilling statistic that “there’s a twenty per cent chance I’ll die, every time I step into the car”. This idea is elaborated tenderly, as Rush seeks to expose the emotional strain that a sport with such a high fatality rate has on the drivers, family and friends; Hunt in Rush is depicted dabbling in alcoholism and drug use as a recourse for the strains.
The film slowly gains in stature as it builds to the climax of their historic 1976 world championship duel, in which both drivers put their lives on the line to beat each other with near fatal consequences. Naturally the audience draws comparisons between the 1970s setting and our world today. Rush reminds us of some of the things lacking across all sports now; there so few personalities now who have not been trained to give media-friendly answers in interviews that the candour of former sporting personalities in days past is refreshing to see as are the joking in interviews, the genuine answers and displayed emotions. Equally the film reveals how much the media has changed, and not for the better.
Rush offers plenty moments of comedy to counter-act the serious issues. Hemsworth casually enters a hospital early in the film, still in his racing suit with a minor injury, and with an air of James Bond he introduces himself to a nurse before seducing her. Unsurprisingly she is one of many to be unable to resist his luscious long blonde locks throughout the film. Lauda is the perfect rival. On and off track they could not be more different, their early exchanges are comical but their relationship is soon more competitive. There is aversion for each other on the basis of upholding such different values on and off the track; there is also a slight jealousy for what the other driver possesses which they completely lack. The portrayals are fantastic and the audience finds itself being drawn to both at different times and the nice touch of Rush is there no clear winner.
Across the board Rush excels, director Ron Howard and Peter Morgan continue the successful partnership that gave us Frost/Nixon (2008) with this delicate yet nail-biting recreation of one of the greatest rivalries in history in one of the most tragic and inspiring fields of motorsport.