Racing Movie Month: "Rush" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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Rating: R
Length: 123 minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2013
Directed by: Ron Howard
Genre: Action / Biography / Drama

With his beginnings as a child actor and All-American boy on the TV series favorites "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days," director Ron Howard delivers yet another top-notch directing accomplishment with "Rush." With other directing credits that include "Cocoon," "A Beautiful Mind," "Apollo 13," "Frost/Nixon" and others, Howard has proved himself as a heavyweight in the field of film direction. The film rises well above the interests just to Formula One racing fans. It pairs Howard's directing chops with the writing excellence of Peter Morgan and outstanding performances by actors Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl. Notably, Peter Morgan also served as the writer for the critically acclaimed Ron Howard films of "Frost/Nixon" and "The Last King of Scotland."

The film follows English Formula One driver and playboy James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth and his infamous rivalry and friendship with driver Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl. The plot begins with Hunt's early days as a driver. During these early days, Hunt experienced frustration in securing sponsors for his cars and in driving cars that could not deliver enough high performance for his daring racing style.

Viewers are drawn in as they grow to know the incredible charisma and lifestyle of James Hunt, which includes his love of women, sense of humor and non-stop partying lifestyle. James Hunt was strikingly handsome, and Chris Hemsworth delivers his own good looks with 1970s style hair and clothes that he sports well. Hunt had an ease in his dealings with the media. His combination of good looks and natural charisma allowed him to enjoy many commercial endorsements as a result of this winning combination.

Meanwhile, the audience is introduced to Hunt's racing rival Niki Lauda with his polar opposite personality and appearance. Lauda's Austrian background and mindset of engineering excellence and brilliance shines through in Daniel Bruhl's moving performance. Lauda studied cars and cultivated a strong knowledge of the mechanics of engineering through his intense study. Howard gives the audience a glimpse at the payoffs from his mechanical ability in some of the racing scenes.

Along the way with Hunt's numerous beautiful love interests and sexual conquests, his agent pushes Hunt toward settling down with one woman. Olivia Wilde enters the picture as a model and Hunt's love interest, Suzy Miller. The couple marries and enjoys brief happiness together before Hunt's drinking and emotional distance eventually tears the marriage apart.

In contrast to Hunt, Lauda's life is quiet and full of commitment to hands-on engineering of his race cars. Howard provides an opportunity for emotional attachment to Lauda with his less-than-desirable looks and likeability paired with Lauda's introduction to a beautiful love interest. Where Hunt failed in his marriage commitment and success, Niki Lauda enjoyed a loving relationship with his wife. Howard is masterful in his portrayal of two drastically different personalities with the same commitment and drive to compete at the top tier of their sport.

Nail-biting action and suspense is peppered throughout the film and culminates with the legendary race at the Nurburgring Grand Prix in Germany. After enduring dangerous racing conditions when Hunt pushed for the race to go on as scheduled, Lauda experienced a horrific car crash when he became severely burned. Even under the extreme rivalry, viewers get a glimpse of Hunt's intense feelings of guilt and brotherly defense of Lauda against the media.

The film goes on to show the courageous recovery by Lauda. After suffering third-degree burns, broken bones and scorched lungs, Niki Lauda still returned to win more Formula One races. He earned his racing legacy through both skill and sheer determination.

With many of the same flashes of directing brilliance that he demonstrated in "Apollo 13," Howard shows the audience the nitty-gritty of 1970s Formula One racing. With his display of the excitement, danger and addictive potential of the sport of this time, viewers go through an almost palpable experience with bad boy Hunt. The movie is an immersive experience that leaves a lasting impression of the danger and skill involved in 1970s Formula One racing. That James Hunt emerged from the sport physically unscathed was a major accomplishment and testament to his driving skills and commitment to excel.

As yet another memorable feature film by Ron Howard, "Rush" delivers an appealing mix of action, suspense and biography appropriate for ages 18 and older. The film features an insider look at Formula One racing of the time with exciting racing sequences. Viewers also get to enjoy complex character development of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, courtesy of top-notch performances by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl. Whether or not you are a fan of Formula One racing, this film offers heartfelt messages about love and courage against all odds.

Rating: 4 out of 5