It’s been a few years since director Ron Howard has delivered a truly memorable movie to the big screen, but Rush looks like a return to the genre that made him the Oscar caliber director of legends. Like “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind” that came before it, Rush is looking to deliver a heightened form of historical drama that gives the history more emotional appeal and excitement. Does this formula one action drama deliver the thrills and suspense or does Ron Howard need to keep the brakes on his directorial career?
Rush puts us in the passenger seat of Niki Lauda(Daniel Brühl), a driver who has mastered the craft of racing and is unquestionably the best according everyone except for playboy racer James Hunt(Chris Hemsworth). The story takes a deeper look at each of these drivers to explore what it is that compels them to compete in a sport that puts their life on the line with every given race. The movie begins early in their careers when they first meet and then follows them throughout the years as a dangerous and dynamic rivalry develops that will push each of them even further in their lust for victory.
The plot of this movie is very straightforward and rightly so based on the historical context. This story isn’t driven by complex story telling, ridiculous special effects, or some contrived plot device, but sticks to the characters and their stories to deliver the dramatic impact. The movie opens with a flashforward that is both brief and vague enough to tease the exciting events to come, but the movie otherwise sticks to good old fashions storytelling.
The heart of this movie is driven by the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt. The movie never fails to capture the spite, hate, and bromance the two develop throughout their careers. Their relationship starts as a playful tease, but quickly becomes resentful and eventually turns venomous before it finally bears fruit. This dynamic needed a strong duo to succeed and Hemsworth and Bruhl both deliver the best performances of their careers. Hunt is a playboy driven by the need for victory, success, and championing over his competitors while Lauda is driven by his skill and sense of duty he believes in. Each actor captures these core motivations and delivers them both above and beneath the surface. These characters are also impressively written with enough rich history and dimension that you’d believe these people were the real deal.
The thing that I found most interesting about these characters was the exploration of the ideas and goals that pushed them over the line into obsession. James Hunt was definitely the more interesting side of the coin as he was a man who raced simply because he had nothing else to live for. The movie takes a look at this character in both the brightest and darkest moments in his family. The worse his personal life became, the more driven he became to win the grand prix. Lauda delivers some very different motivations that pushed him over the line into obsession as he felt he was simply doing what he was good at. He considered himself the best and almost considered it his duty to show the world his skill as the best. The further he gets into the grand prix, the more involved he gets with a woman and at one point goes as far as to say that “happiness is the enemy of my victory” in one of the most touching scenes of the movie. Obsession runs deep in this film and when it’s all said and done it created a dynamic experience that is one of the best I’ve had this year.
The Ron Howard we all know and love has finally come back to reclaim his title of master director with his best movie since 2008’s Frost/Nixon. Like a master of pottery, he molds the the foundation of the true story into something far more unique and suspenseful than most directors could ever deliver. Even though he knows how to turn in those adrenaline filled moments during the climax, his greatest strength still lies in his ability to build tension throughout the movie. Despite the fact that this is a historical drama, Howard creates moments where the history looks like it has been thrown out the window in favor of suspense. The movie never veers too far away from the major beats of reality, but it definitely felt like the movie could go anywhere at any point during the movie. To top it all off, Ron Howard still knows how to give us loud and tasty eye candy during the most intense moments of the race. The well shot and well edited racing sequences were the sweet icing on top of the already perfectly baked cake of “Rush”.
I’d say that Rush is a great way to kick off the fall season. It delivers some great character work, an exciting retelling of an already incredible story, and leaves all of the flash in the back seat in favor of something more meaningful and engaging. This is a movie for a pretty wide market, but I’d say Rush is best suited for fans of history, racing, or tales of obsession. With that said, I think that all will enjoy the exciting tale that Rush puts together just in time for the first lap of Oscar season.
It may have all the makings and plotting structure of a typical historical sports movie, but Rush gives close attention to detail and depth in the way this story is told.
I was very impressed by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruel in each of their roles. They both capture the hurt and motivation that pits these men down a dangerous path to attempt victory at all costs in a way not many actors could. They have impressive chemistry that leads you to believe that these guys weren’t just rivals.
Ron Howard brings all of his strengths and few of his weaknesses to this picture. His mastery of suspense and understanding of his actors and the script all come together to create a really impressive experience about formula one racing I never believed I could have had.
Overall Effectiveness of the the Movie: 9.0
This movie delivers a really engaging character study as well as some high octane thrills that are memorable enough to make me pause and think that we may be seeing this film during award season. Everything in this movie compliments the story of these characters and their obsession to win with the end result being a movie that should leave a mark in 2014’s Oscar race.
Overall score: 9.0