It’s raining out. One of those sheet-like tropical downpours that preps you for hurricane season. This kind of weather doesn’t remind me of The Perfect Storm or (for heaven’s sake) Singin’ in the Rain – no, nothing sensible like that. It reminds me of one scene from one movie I saw once. Obviously it left an impression. If you’ve seen Rush you’ll know what I mean and you’ll know why I decided stay in and write instead of going out for a drive.
First of all, you do not have to like cars in order to enjoy this movie. It is an enjoyable film whether or not you know the difference between exhaust and exhausted. More than just cars, Rush is about the rivalry between the charismatic, attractive James Hunt and the career-focused, not-quite-Mister-Universe-material Niki Lauda. I wouldn’t say this movie captivated me all the way through, but it keeps a steady balance between character development and racing for the gold, all while reminding you that it’s considered a sport to watch a man (a delicate combination of flesh, blood, and reflexes) whip around a track at lightning speed in a flat metal box while being chased, shoved, and cut off by other gas-filled, spark-inducing, flat metal boxes on wheels… Go team go.
Rush tells the true story of two Formula Three drivers in the 1970s who develop an early rivalry, pushing each other into Formula One and eventually the World Championship. This is the timeline of the film. They meet, they race, they tinker with their cars, and they race again. Rinse and repeat. The story is divided in two, with half following Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the other half Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Both see life very differently, but both are champions in their own right. Their rivalry is equal parts friendship and enmity, and they have a constant push-and-pull-relationship.
The one negative point I would have about the plot is that I didn’t find it very exciting until about two thirds of the way through. Rush does a wonderful job of setting up Hunt and Lauda’s competition and profiling their separate journeys, but I wasn’t completely invested until both racers were back on the track together. Maybe I just expected more action from a movie called Rush which opens with an ominous ‘Danger and Death’ speech. Off the track, Hemsworth and Brühl play their dramatic roles very well, and I have to give my complements to the casting department for finding a group of talented actors who look so much like the real people they are portraying. It’s a shocking collection of doppelgangers.
Ron Howard, meanwhile, is a creative genius. He uses a multitude of different angles, from slow motion, gradually speeding up as the cars start the race, to extreme close-ups under the helmets. There were sharp angles where there needed to be and unfocused blurs in the most chaotic places. To increase the excitement, he includes plenty of flashy gear-shifts and close-ups of foot pedals, even in the regular street-legal cars. It’s artsy while also giving the impression of a need for speed.
On that note I will add that in no way did this film make me want to drop my life and start racing cars. Nope. Not a bit. I, like most people, enjoy a good Hollywood-style crash, but only from a distance. Rush puts you right in the action and teaches you from the very first scene to dread all collisions, even the fender-benders. Here’s where we talk about the rain and that sweet word loved by all insurance companies – hydroplaning. Racing Formula One cars in a downpour may look cool, and be a great opportunity for the artistic cameraman, but everyone else knows it’s an accident waiting to happen. The final race of the film takes place in the rain, with the added bonus of a thick blanket of fog… Not exactly the best conditions for driving a very fast, very low, ‘car’ without a roof or windshield. How do the drivers see? One of life’s great mysteries.
While I did feel like Rush followed a typical sports movie pattern (rivalry, game, loss, montage, championship, victor) I was captivated by the climax and conclusion of the film. It was intense, shocking, exciting, and a fabulous wrap up. Rush gets a 7.5/10 because I enjoyed the story, even if I found it a little unexciting to begin with. The cinematography alone is worth the watch. But be warned: this is more of a drama film about an influential relationship than it is a heart-pounding action.