Rush. Presumably titled as to reference the pumping adrenaline of Formula One Racing. But also, rather pleasingly, it’s just as accurate in describing the pace of the movie. Ron Howard seems in a rush. A rush to introduce us to the two men that will shape the next two hours of our lives. And a rush to build up to the year that defined theirs. It’s an exhilarating, frenetic journey that accelerates quickly and never goes off track. Barely five minutes have passed before we see James Hunt furiously bonking Nurse Gemma over a table, even less when we first encounter a brusque Niki Lauda- in flashback- lamenting his misfortunes. The message is clear- these men will grip us and never let us go.
Howard’s real masterstroke is his use of realism, his knowledge that no-one is perfect. Chris Hemsworth’s James Hunt is an arrogant, condescending hedonist. Daniel Bruhl’s Niki Lauda is cold, ungracious and callous. These are two people who both inspire and degrade each other- both driven by ambition and blinded by hubris. But mutually dependent. One could not survive without the other. And the touches of morality the two display indicate the intense, sometimes-unwilling respect they have for one another. This, of course, couldn’t be possible without two performances of real depth from the leads.
Australian Chris Hemsworth (equipped with a stunningly accurate English accent) excels as playboy Hunt, oozing charisma with every languid step and cocky grin. It’s the performance of his career- on one hand repulsively narcissistic, on the other commendably moral. But the film’s real trump card is Daniel Bruhl. Probably best-known to British audiences for his bit-parts in The Bourne Ultimatum and Inglorious Basterds, Bruhl isn’t exactly a household name. Many more roles of this quality and he will be. Investing Lauda with the necessary bitterness and matter-of-fact ego was no mean feat. Making him likeable was almost impossible. Amongst all the self-esteem and his wildly alienating manner, Lauda’s drive and professionalism make him not just respectable, but also commendable.
The supporting characters inevitably fail to measure up to the excellence of the leads, but some do better than others. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara as the drivers’ wives, have very little to do but cast contemplative glances at their husbands, as they drive themselves into an abyss, while Natalie Dormer(Game of Thrones’ Marjorie Tyrell) is wasted as a vessel for Hunt’s ever-wandering member. Faring better is Stephen Mangan, whose comedic interludes add light relief to what could have been a very heavy piece. Because at times Rush can be a difficult watch. There is some pretty graphic injury detail on show here, and that’s not even to mention the agonising lung pumping scene. Howard doesn’t shelter us from the harsh realities of the sport-and nor should he. Rush is a movie all about risk. To quote Lauda- ‘weighing up the risk with the reward’. Being willing to die to reach the top. And boy, don’t those racing scenes show it. Frankly, they’re more exciting than today’s Formula One. And the final race possesses a poetic completeness that couldn’t have been bettered by anything fiction could throw up. Sometimes the greatest stories are the ones that aren’t invented.
Rush isn’t just a movie about racing. It’s about ambition, pride, and bravery. And about two men who pushed each other to their very limit. And, simply, it’s the best movie of the year. Rush to the cinema.