Craig's First Take: "Rush"

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After a catastrophic crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that could have killed him, Formula One driver Niki Lauda returns to face his rival James Hunt in their pursuit of the 1976 World Championship at Fuji in Japan.
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You know that feeling that’s been missing most of the summer? You know, excitement. Leave it to an old pro like Ron Howard to bring it back. Howard, who’s spent the last seven years of his career doing those Robert Langdon movies and that (comedy?) with Kevin James and Vince Vaughn, “The Dilemma”, delivers his best movie in a while with “Rush”.

Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) scripts the film which focuses on formula one race car drivers Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Lauda, an Austrian, and Hunt, a Brit, are each the products of rich families and each basically disowned for their participation in the sport. Lauda even took out a loan to get his career started, but a know-how of the ways cars work and an impressive pedigree behind the wheel soon earn him sponsorship from Ferrari. For Hunt, the sport offers a fast life with a high chance of death, which is just damn more exciting, and hey, the women love it as we all know.

They first meet in a division 3 race in 1970, the way it ends making enemies and rivals of both men. From there each will ride the coat tails of the other in one way or another. What “Rush” is really about though is their vying for the world championship in 1976, participating in races together, and usually finishing either first or second, around the world. They are impressive duels on the track followed by verbal ones off it. Howard does incredible work here; pistons pump, engines are revved, sharp turns and impressive spin-outs are taken, and you feel the adrenaline in every possible way.

Hemsworth, taking on his first dramatic role if you don’t consider “Thor” a drama, and Bruhl work wonders as well. Hemsworth is great at this cocky Brit who continually saw nerves as something to be pushed past, going further to the edge both in his quest for success and pleasure, while Bruhl backs up Lauda’s arrogance with intelligence and a rigid work ethic. It’s fun to watch the two opposites go at each other but a new dimension arrives later after Lauda is severely injured in an accident (prepare to wince at his recovery) and we see the mutual respect each has for the other.

Howard’s brisk film doesn’t touch upon their personal lives much- Olivia Wilde is basically in three scenes, one where she flirts with Hemsworth, another where they are married, and then another where her character runs off with Richard Burton, while Lauda’s marriage doesn’t even get that in-depth-but “Rush” is a thrilling look at men putting it all on the line for success, about men who feel more at home in their cars than anywhere else, and basically also about men being pushed by other men. It’s a manly movie, but with emotions and thrills vividly brought to life.