British Formula 1 driver and playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is aiming to clinch the F1 title, but he must overcome Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) to do so. However, their increasingly intense rivalry has devastating consequences both on and off the track.
Sports films are always difficult to pull off, especially when the sport in question isn’t that popular in one of your main target markets. That’s the challenge Ron Howard was faced with when he signed up for Rush. Here in the UK, Formula One has a pretty large following, but in the US Nascar is the king of track and, therefore, Howard needed to make the film accessible on a human level, as well as making the racing exciting and authentic. It could easily have been a car crash (pun most definitely intended), but instead it’s got a good shout at being the quintessential racing film.
Howard has admitted that prior ti getting involved in Rush he knew nothing of F1, which makes his achievement all the more spectacular. Capturing the feel and thrill of F1 isn’t easy but everything from the speed of the cars to the pit lane urgency to the cinema-shaking roar of the engines is present and correct. There’s a Hans Zimmer score in there somewhere apparently, but the only sound you’ll likely remember is the V6 engines of McLarens, Ferraris, etc, melting your ears off. Mention should also go to Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill for their quite brilliant editing.
Off the track, both lead characters are wonderfully portrayed. Hunt and Lauda are polar opposites, with the former being larger than life and wreckless, with a penchant for living all aspects of his life at 100mph, not just on the track. Lauda, on the other hand is calculated and measured. He works on percentages rather than passion, knowing exactly how his car works and prefers an early night rather than a life of vice. These personalities aren’t subtly played out; everything is spelled out pretty plainly, which might be a little simple for some, but still works superbly. Chris Hemsworth is perfectly smug and arrogant as Hunt, his annoyingly good looks making him the ideal choice for the role, whilst Daniel Brühl’s performance as Niki Lauda could be an outside chance for an Oscar nomination.
Creating a human element to the film does require some creative license, meaning there are some inevitable historical inaccuracies, although the majority of audiences won’t likely pick up on these. There are also certain scenes that feel as if they’re invented solely for dramatic purposes, which although still work reasonably well for the most part, do make you question their authenticity in a film based on real events.
Whilst the film might still be a more difficult sell to non-F1 fans, there’s a huge amount to enjoy even if you don’t know your Silverstones from your Nürburgrings. Howard has done exactly what he needed to do, perfectly marrying the on and off-track to create a drama that’s tense, touching and breathless from the starting grid to the checkered flag.