To those of us of a certain age, who, uh, can actually recall the 1970’s, and were also paying attention to “alternate” forms of motor racing; the names Niki Lauda and James Hunt are immediately recognizable. We say alternate forms of motor racing, because back then, Formula 1 racing was largely ignored by mainstream Americans raised on a diet of NASCAR and Top Fuel dragsters.
Still, a few of us—those enamored with sports cars with names like Triumph TR6, MG-B, Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 911, Ferrari Daytona, et. al. also kept an eye on that curiously European form of motor racing where the cars turned both right and left. Some people say Grand Prix motor racing is the most sophisticated form of the sport. Further, they maintain it requires considerably more talent than NASCAR—plus the cars are far more capable.
Back then, they were also far more dangerous.
The decade of the 1970’s claimed the lives of ten Formula 1 drivers. By comparison, only five NASCAR drivers were killed during the 1970’s. Keep in mind though; there were only 16 races per season in Formula 1 back then, while NASCAR ran some 30 events annually. We’re talking nearly twice as many races, but half as many deaths.
Now, into this incendiary tableau, let’s insert a particularly fierce rivalry.
Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt were two very closely matched drivers, with two very different approaches to the sport. The glamorously flamboyant Hunt was all fire and emotion—with very little regard for his personal safety. Meanwhile, the introverted Lauda was methodical, calculating, and highly cerebral. Both men won races—lots of races. In fact, it can be argued the two were the greatest racing drivers of their time.
During the 1976 season, with Hunt trying desperately to wrest the Formula 1 World Championship away from Lauda, the two found themselves in pretty evenly matched cars. Only their different philosophies separated them as they dueled for the World Championship. Their rivalry drove one of them to a near death experience, only to emerge from it in a heroic fashion, before going on to even greater success.
Now that’s a premise for a great movie.
A fact not lost on one of the most talented motion picture directors of our time—Ron Howard. In Rush, we have a film with a human element so involving, you’ll be wholly captivated whether you like cars or not. If you do like cars, it’s even more of a plus because Rush’s recreations of the Formula car events of the 1970’s—while decidedly stylized—are highly visceral in their presentation.
True racing aficionados may complain the competition footage doesn’t approach that of Steve McQueen’s film LeMans, and they’ll be correct. But where McQueen was a racer, Howard is not. Further, the story here is more about the men than it is the racing itself. Compellingly portrayed by Chris Hemsworth as “James Hunt”, and Daniel Brühl as “Niki Lauda”, those men are brought vividly to life.
Howard has a knack for making stories we think we already know seem fresh and new (witness his Apollo 13). He's also good at injecting suspense into situations in which the outcome is already known. With Rush, Howard focuses this ability on a motorsports tale with considerable success.
Even if you couldn’t give one whit about racing, you’ll still enjoy Rush.
Because—well—it is one.
The film opens nationwide September 27.
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