Ron Howard’s latest film Rush depicts the epic rivalry between Formula 1 race car drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The film covers the six-year period from their amateur beginnings to their infamous battle for the World Championship in 1976. Peter Morgan’s straightforward and efficient script paints Lauda (as played by Daniel Brühl) as cool and tenacious, as he uses his money, drive, and acumen to ascend the ranks, while the playboy Hunt (Chris Hemsworth from the Thor franchise) follows in pursuit both literally and figuratively. The screenwriter colors the sports backdrop with personal drama that reflects each lead with an assortment of incidental characters. This simplified approach is probably as perfect a method one could take to relay the rather awe-inspiring conflict that was constantly feeding itself and pushing each man to his limits. Howard, who has delivered a film that is nothing like any movie he has made in the past, has shown incredible growth as a filmmaker. Sleek, tempered, yet flashy in all the right ways, he uses Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography spliced together by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill to full effect. Complemented with aerial shots and bouncing automotive parts gone astray, the racing scenes, which are truly the centerpiece of the film, are heart-pounding. The supporting human interest is sometimes one-dimensional, yet is saved by a strong cast. Hemsworth is entirely appropriate as the irresponsible and promiscuous Hunt, but it’s Brühl who draws focus. While the initial mouth prosthetics are off-putting and all too bluntly depict him as the marsupial manifestation the makeup team was going for, Brühl captures the practical, if cold beside manner of Lauda, while giving him a humanity echoed in Hans Zimmer’s heart-tugging and emotionally resonant score. As Lauda’s wife Marlene, Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara makes an impression, and that’s due in part to Howard smartly encapsulating her as Lauda’s ultimate driving force. The climax is drawn out, as it pulls our attention away from where we’re more invested and there’s a minor technical squabble (if you know the story, there’s a makeup adjustment missing that I’m assuming the filmmakers thought they could correct in post-production with CGI, but couldn’t. That’s only mildly distracting though), but other than that, it’s an incredible and moving story worth seeing. And I say this as someone who knows nothing about Formula 1 racing, nor has much interest in cars. Hopefully the one-week limited opening will build word-of-mouth for its wider release.
I don’t believe Brühl can win without any traditional Oscar clips, but despite playing an unlikeable character, the actor and director Ron Howard have created a very touching portrayal. I’d be surprised if Brühl doesn’t get serious awards consideration, especially considering how seemingly sparse this year appears to be so far for this category, and that he’s in a movie that may get nominated for Best Picture. Speaking of which, the chances of that happening are very much on the fence. There’s no reason why it can’t (Moneyball springs to mind). Reasonable box-office (say $50M domestically) would keep it relevant. It has plenty of races to compete in, and will likely land in both sound categories, and maybe Dod Mantle’s cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s score, and the editing. My only question is if the script can slide in, which would make all the difference. – Vincent Smetana
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[author image=”http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v193/erikdean/ed22f9d3-c3ca-4b8f-9e7f-ed5ebde533e7_zpscf247e27.jpg?t=1380471988″ ]Vincent Smetana loves all kinds of movies, but has a soft spot for high production values and off-color jokes. He lives in West Hollywood, right on the edge of where all the magic happens! Or still some of it, anyway. Vincent has his own blog, http://cinesnatch.blogspot.nl/, where he reviews films and gives his views on the Oscar race.[/author]