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18 September 13 words: Ashley Carter
One of Formula One's bitterest rivalries is brought to the big screen, and it's not just for petrol heads
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Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Rush

There seems to have been something of a resurgence in the sports biopic of late.  The crown that Raging Bull comfortably wore since 1980 has finally faced at least something of a challenge during the last five years.  The Fighter, Moneyball and The Damned United all helped usher in a new era of sports movies that hastily moved away from the schmaltzy, formulaic dross that dominated the genre for years.  The protagonist’s flaws and pitfalls became the focus, with games/races/fights not always being won in the last few seconds, and no significant character growth necessary to tie the film nicely together for a happy ending.  What emerged were a string of films far more believable, and therefore naturally more engrossing for the viewer.  With Rush, Ron Howard has created such a film, and one that instantly joins the ranks of great sports biopics.

With his earlier, and greatly underrated film Cinderella Man, Howard has shown that he can walk the delicate line between emotional and melodramatic when it comes to sports movies.  Recounting the story of the bitter rivalry between Formula One legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Rush never noticeably favours one over the other throughout the narrative.  The studious, stoic and determined Lauda naturally emerges as the antithesis to playboy driver Hunt, whose reckless abandon and fearless racing has seen him surface as the new superstar of Formula One. 

After initially meeting during a Formula Three race, their antagonistic relationship flourishes through their emergence as young Formula One talent, culminating in the legendary, incident filled 1976 season.  As with the pioneering use of camera techniques during the boxing matches in Cinderella Man, Howard has again delivered truly remarkable action footage that anchors the film in a frenzied, frenetic and captivating pace.

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The two leads could not have been more faultlessly cast. Despite more than a few raised eyebrows at the choice to have Chris Hemsworth portray Hunt, the Thor actor is perfect.  He expresses the duality of repressed emotion and outward physical excess that encapsulated the late driver. Even more impressive is Daniel Brühl as Lauda. His relentless discipline, professorial knowledge of the sport and occasional arrogance, as well as an astonishing physical resemblance to Lauda, are represented superbly in his portrayal of the Austrian.  Particularly during the scenes of physical rehabilitation following his 1976 crash, Brühl’s range as an actor is really displayed. Heavily bandaged, acting almost exclusively using just his eyes he portrays a mixture of jealousy, fear, determination, pain, pressure and tenacity whilst watching Hunt race without him on television.

A wonderful supporting cast including Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall) and Pierfrancesco Favino (Romanzo Criminale), as well as British actors Natalie Dormer, Christian McKay, Jamie Sives and Stephen Mangan all add a welcome depth that help flesh out a believable portrayal of the 1970s Formula One scene, with its appeal equally as glamorous as it was perilous.  Setting aside, Rush is fundamentally an exploration of how fierce competition can drive logical people to do seemingly illogical things. As Lauda states during the film: “A wise man gets more from his enemies than he does from his friends”. 

Within the unique camaraderie that exists between the participants of any sports in which the risk of death is high there naturally exists a mutual respect, but, more predominantly, a ferocious rivalry.

Rush official website


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