Last week I was invited by the good people at Brembo to watch Ron Howard’s new RUSH movie and frankly I was nervous. Heck, I have been nervous about RUSH ever since I saw the first trailer. Afraid to let my hopes gain full altitude. Why? Because despite “Hollywood” being interested in motorsports, for some reason they just haven’t been able to produce a good racing movie that racing enthusiasts actually like for the last 40 years or so. They continue to try but as of late the results of their efforts have been flicks such as Days of Thunder and Driven.
Why is this? Well my personal theory is that the people who make these films typically are not racing fans or enthusiasts therefore they aren’t excited by motorsports. By not being excited by motorsports, they believe fiction is more exciting than the real thing. So, instead they use motorsports as a backdrop then tack on some trite, cliché-ridden story with over-used archetypes and the result is usually rife with technical inaccuracies intentionally committed for the sake of “drama”. Even though that pisses off race fans to no end, its hard to really blame past directors for going that route. I mean, how does someone make a compelling feature-length movie about cars driving around really fast in circles?
Ron Howard found the answer: make the movie about the people who race rather than just the racing itself. Race car drivers have always been something of a mystery. Why do they risk their lives in such a way? Is it their ego? Pure bravado? Why are they so exceptionally competitive with one another? Wouldn’t it be great if someone could create a story about two drivers with egos bigger than anyone of their competitors going at it for an entire season against insurmountable odds?
Well Ron Howard, along with writer Peter Morgan did just that; and luckily for them that story just happened to be true! What are the odds? OK, so if Ron Howard and Peter Morgan didn’t have to make up the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda when making RUSH then why do they deserve any credit for creating this film? Because they cared enough to get it right.
One of the trickiest things for a director to do when making a true story is to get out of the way of said story. They tend to over embellish because they don’t have enough confidence that the real story is compelling enough. That is not the case with RUSH. Ron Howard did an excellent job by choosing Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl to bring James Hunt and Niki Lauda (respectively) to the big screen. From there Howard and his production crew really pushed for authenticity. I am not just referring to the 70s era of F1 racing either, I mean the 70s era period!
Not only are the cars, tracks, and rules of the day brilliantly and respectfully represented but even when it comes down to the personalities, sensibilities, fashion, language, drug use, and casual sex of the mid-seventies; everything seems spot-on. The details were definitely sweated on this film and it shows. If the production designer doesn’t get some type of award nomination for RUSH then there is no freaking justice!
Before I talk about the cinematics let me talk about the actors for a bit. When I learned that Chris “Thor” Hemsworth was going to play James Hunt I was admittedly a bit worried. Let’s be honest: casting the biggest heart throb on the planet right now as a race car driver lead can be seen as a bit opportunistic. However, Hemsworth really shows his acting chops by going deeper into Hunt’s psyche by brilliantly portraying some of the racer’s hidden insecurity and other vulnerabilities.
While Hemsworth’s performance was impressive it is really Daniel Bruhl who steals the show as Niki Lauda. Bruhl’s interpretation of Lauda as a unapologetically blunt, socially challenged, calculating, genius with a pension for F-bombs is amazing and easily one of the best things about the film. Furthermore Bruhl himself brings out some of Lauda’s insecurities as he struggles to keep himself from alienating people with his blunt nature and inability to relate to the more jovial aspects of the human experience.
So now that you know the actors don’t screw it all up lets talk about how awesome this movie looks! Beyond the production design, the cinematography really pushes for realism. Yes, there is use of CG in RUSH but its not so overused that it becomes easy to pick out the computer generated effects from the practical shots, and there are plenty of practical racing shots which equate to copious moments of vintage Formula 1 car porn! Seriously the shots are so beautiful and the angles so unique that when combined with the sound design, you will swear you can smell race fuel and burnt rubber!
If you love racing of any kind (especially Formula 1) then you are going to find plenty to like about RUSH. It brilliantly tells one of the greatest stories in all of motorsports while respecting the sport itself, its fans, and its heritage. RUSH is our generation’s LeMans. Its artful representation of a time when “sex was safe and racing was dangerous” as well as its respect for the sport itself.
It could be said that anyone who wants to understand the essence of America’s love affair with Baseball should watch The Natural and that anyone who wants to understand the spirit of Football should watch Rudy. Well, I think it can now be said that if anyone wants to understand the spirit of Formula 1 and why it is an important sport to the world should watch RUSH.
RUSH is a 10/10 for me. Go watch it this weekend! Just, don’t bring the kids!
RUSH Trailer #3: