MRR Review: "Rush"

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

MRR Review: "Rush"

Rating: Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images, and brief drug use
Length: 123 minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2013
Directed by: Ron Howard
Genre: Action/Biography/Drama

"Rush" is a biopic about Formula One racers Nikki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Brühl is best known for the role of Fredrick Zoller in the 2009 war film "Inglourious Basterds," and Hemsworth played the titular character in the 2011 superhero film "Thor." "Rush" is directed by Ron Howard, and the screenplay was written by Peter Morgan. Veteran director Howard's most recent films include the 2008 biopic "Frost/Nixon," the 2009 action/drama "Angels & Demons," and the 2011 comedy "The Dilemma."

"Rush" was shot in various locations in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, including the Blackbushe Airport in Hampshire, which was used during World War II. Film locations also include racing circuits such as Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, Nürburgring, and Snetterton. The film received financial support from Baden-Württemberg.

"Rush" follows the fierce rivalry between Lauda and Hunt during the 1976 Formula One racing season, in which Lauda nearly dies in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. He recovers in time to compete against Hunt in the 1976 Formula One World Championship at Fuji, Japan. The two lead characters in the film both have a burning desire to win but otherwise have very different personalities.

Hunt is a British playboy with rakish good looks who wears silk shirts and walks with a swagger. He's wild and undisciplined both on and off the track, which is a highly dangerous combination when driving 170 miles per hour. Hunt makes it clear early in the film that he only feels alive when he's close to death, and his easy charisma makes him want a job that involves risking his life.

The typically handsome Brühl wears prosthetic teeth in "Rush," giving him a ratlike appearance as Lauda. Brühl speaks with an authentic Austrian accent that makes everything he says sound like an insult. This is usually the case, as Lauda isn't a particularly likeable character. He is far more methodical than Hunt, always analyzing what he must do to win. Lauda's absolute confidence comes from his conviction that he has carefully calculated the chances of victory. In addition to winning, each of the racers wants to humiliate his opponent.

The best parts of "Rush" take place on the racetrack as the movie follows the 1976 racing season from start to finish. This season was one of the most exciting in Formula One history because Hunt and Lauda remained closely ranked throughout. The film covers races in many locations, such as Brazil, Japan, and Monaco, but the racing scenes never feel repetitive thanks to the nonstop, high-speed action. These scenes fully capture the feel of the cramped cockpit of a Formula One racecar in a manner that may remind audiences of the 1966 racing film "Grand Prix." The film also shows the danger of Formula One racing with its hairpin turns and squealing tires.

The scenes off the track are more sedate with Lauda as the archetypal disciplined perfectionist and Hunt as the charismatic playboy. Both men have love interests, although they primarily serve as spectators who appear worried during the racing scenes. Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) is Hunt's girlfriend, while Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara) is Lauda's paramour.

Hunt and Lauda become more fleshed out in the last third of the film as they vie for first place in the standings. They arrive at the Nürburgring track in Germany, which the drivers dubbed "The Graveyard." This nickname is especially appropriate given the light rain. Lauda is ahead of Hunt in the rankings and argues for canceling the race due to the dangerous driving conditions. However, Hunt uses his natural charm to convince the other drivers to vote against Lauda.

As the race progresses, the drivers are barely able to see through the rain, and Lauda misses a turn and crashes, resulting in a deadly fireball. He is terribly burned, with his face and lungs suffering the most. Hunt begins to catch up to Lauda in the standings as Lauda recovers from his injuries. However, Lauda is intensely driven to complete his rehabilitation as quickly as possible so that he can return to racing.

"Rush" graphically shows Lauda's agony as he struggles to put his helmet over his head, which is covered with scars from his third-degree burns. Many viewers will feel his urge to return to racing so quickly is a sign of insanity, but director Howard clearly understands that such plot development also makes for compelling drama. Racing fans will be especially fascinated by this portrayal, which is essentially a recreation of the real events.

Rating 4 out of 5