Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
In the racing world, specifically that of Formula One racing, the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda is the stuff of legends. Their competitive battles began early in their careers, chasing one another as they progressed to be two of the best racers the world has ever seen. Their rivalry came head to head a number of times, eventually leading to the fateful 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
James Hunt and Niki Lauda were very different people. Hunt was a rock-star; he loved women, parties and the spotlight. Lauda, on the other hand, was proud to be serious man; believing that if people didn’t like you, it was because they respected you. That being said, their competitive nature and their obsession over racing made them more similar than either wanted to admit.
Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) and screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) bring this true story to the big screen with gusto and professionalism. The story is often so fantastical that it could only be true. The story of Hunt and Lauda’s rivalry is perfect for the big screen; a perfect way for these filmmakers and actors to show off their talents.
Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as James Hunt. Capturing the spirit of a man who struggles with his love for racing (and the fame that comes with it) and his personal life. The role is perfect for Hemsworth, who easily makes us forget about his hammer-wielding alter ego by bringing his charm and physicality to this great role.
Arguably, Daniel Brühl impresses more. As Lauda, Brühl creates a complex man who has an unyielding passion for racing and is determined to become the best, even it means making enemies. Their individual performances are fantastic and their scenes together are dynamic. Initially, these characters aren’t likable in the slightest. Kudos to Hemsworth and Brühl for portraying their strengths as well as they have.
Peter Morgan’s great screenplay covers a lot of ground, but it makes sure to keep things simple enough for an undemanding audience. And it may be slightly too simple. The first quarter of the film has Hunt and Lauda quickly rising to their career highs. It’s understandable; we need to get to their individual crescendos and get some more racing on the screen. Unfortunately, the broad brush strokes used in this section paint a formulaic picture and Ron Howard’s direction is frustratingly obvious and cliché. You’ll be itching for the inevitable drama to kick into gear. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait too long.
The aforementioned issue with the film’s first quarter isn’t usually a problem, but it is in a film this good. Once Rush takes off it becomes a great, near-brilliant drama that rolls along at a great pace. Howard films the drama in a simple, old-fashioned way that delivers the beats perfectly. Exciting and easy to follow, the racing is also beautifully realised. The finale, that takes place on a monsoon-ridden race track in Japan, is a nail-biting sequence that will have you on the edge of your seat.
This is an enjoyable film. A true-story that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Ron Howard and Peter Morgan deliver on the promise of an entertaining drama for adults. The two lead performances simply tick off the last box needed for a very good picture.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10