Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Rush

Release date: September 20, 2013 (September 27 in the DC area)
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Natalie Dormer
Who to see it with: Fans of sports movies and / or of high speed; also fans of great characters.


Rush is based on the true story of the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl), from their rise through the lower-tier Formula 3 ranks to their days competing in Formula 1, and culminating with their competition in the 1976 Formula 1 series. The two drivers rose in the Formula 1 scene together and their rivalry for the 1976 World Championship was widely followed. Part of the reason that their competition was so compelling was that the two were complete foils: Hunt the hard-living, hard-driving playboy and Lauda, the clinical, brilliant tactician. Their differences make for some great scenes that are even more compelling because, despite their completely different styles, they were both at the top of their sport. 

Rush is directed by Ron Howard and, as expected, the cinematography is phenomenal. There are beautiful angles, wonderful lighting, and the rain / water effects are something to behold. Additionally, Howard focuses on the two driver's relationships with plenty of time devoted to developing the characters as equal, but opposite, personas. Additionally, Rush is scored by Hans Zimmer making the music epic and engrossing. The race music especially gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. As expected form a racing movie, there is plenty of attention given to those events. The film uses great camera angles--which give a good sense of speed--and wonderful sounds. The squeal of the tires, the roar of the engines, and the rush of the cars on pavement are all present and contribute to the excitement of Formula 1. Even if you aren't a fan of the sport (and I imagine most of you, like myself, don't follow it regularly), you will be floored by the intensity and attention paid to those competitions.

But, the best aspect of Rush are the characters, brought to life by some truly wonderful acting. As previously mentioned, both Niki and James are given plenty of attention and developed so the audience has a real understanding of where they come from and what motivates them. And, although the movie initially seems to be a James biopic, Niki has plenty of screen time and, at some point, seems to overtake James for the film's pole position. In some respects, this is similar to Amadeus, where the "secondary" character ends up with a majority of the screen time but I had no problem with that; seeing the differences between the two men provides an interesting angle that is missing from many sports movies. And, at some point, despite thinking that you would be forced to pick a favorite, you realize that you are just enjoying seeing them compete and watching how they push each other. Rush is a triumph; it's a compelling sports movie whose characters drive you through their neck and neck competition for a World Championship. And, once the checkered flag has waved, you will wonder how you were able to get there so quickly and hope for another peak into this amazing rivalry.

See it.

I'm not a sports movie fan but I enjoyed watching Rush's core rivalry. Lauda is understandably cocky because he knows he's skilled and Hunt is an often charismatic, privileged jerk. Their personalities turn many of their interactions into funny attempts to belittle one another, while maintaining an underlying, begrudging respect for one another. It's not often that a story focused on rivals develop the characters so well that you care about both of them. Little time is spent on the women in their lives. They use their brief time on screen well, but you only see the most important moments in their relationships. It's not really an issue because Rush remains so focused on the relationship between the drivers and rarely spends time on anything that doesn't develop that. Even the longer race scenes seem designed to reflect upon their characters. The racers' wit and dangerous levels of determination allow the often light story to take fairly seamless dramatic turns. Rush's central rivalry brings uncommon amounts of fun and action to the biography genre while still making time for drama.

See it.

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