Ron Howard’s F1 epic semi-biopic,’Rush’, is finally here. Hyped up by the likes of ‘Top Gear’ and well publicized by Howard himself at various F1 races over the current season, fans of the sport and the two drivers the film focuses on, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, were expectant of a faithful, yet exciting representation of F1’s glory days back in the 1970’s. Well, I can report that this film is brilliant, one of the best I have seen this year, with a great mixture of action, drama and humour, all in manageable doses. And considering this is a ‘Hollywood’-isation of events, it is a grounded, only very rarely over-dramatic piece of work.
Director Howard has managed to produce a film for not just fans of the sport though. Sure it has plenty of race action, which is an amazing recreation of the real deal, but the film gets under the skin of both drivers, showing reasonable doses of their own private lives, which held remarkable parallels over time. The splicing together of the new and old footage is great too, with the old footage of the two drivers at the end serving as a nice bookend to the film, and frequently appearing on TV screens. Whilst the newly created footage, using some stunning techniques by Howard and his team, is exhilarating, using the real cars from the era, and taking in some of the classic tracks like Brands Hatch, Circuit Paul Ricard and the infamous Nurburgring. Infact the first time the grid starting up their engines, I’m not ashamed to say I got major goosebumps!
Anyway, back to the story. ‘Rush’, is all about two men: James Hunt, a raging, sex-obsessed, boozy Brit, perhaps the epitome of the 70’s as a decade, and his rival for the 1976 season, Niki Lauda, a quiet, calculated Austrian, who ‘bought’ his way into the sport. We go back to the pair’s Formula 3 days, where the first clash between the two occurs. Fastforward a few years, and it’s F1, the big time, Hunt at McLaren, Lauda at Ferrari…game on!
Being a huge F1 fan, but not being too well informed on the past glories of the sport was a perfect position for me. I had a vague idea of what was going to happen, but nothing concrete like the death of Ayrton Senna, as documented in the awesome, ‘Senna’. I won’t spoil any of, ‘Rush’, but it is obvious why it has been made into a film, the story is incredible!
The two leads, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds), are exceptional. Hemsworth is perfect as the cocksure, seemingly care-free Hunt, with a striking similarity to the Brit. He also channels his inner Brit in his accent, with it sounding a little bit Thor-ish at times, but mainly spot on. Hunt is the source of humour, as anyone who has ever heard of him will know, and Hemsworth laps it up, showing great versatility, considering his only major roles beforehand have been as the ‘action hero’.
Bruhl is a revelation as Lauda, we all know Hemsworth can act a bit, but Bruhl, a Spanish-born German actor. He works well as the meticulous Austrian, and can act well in English and German, showing that aside from a nominal part in Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious’, that he’s ready to join the English-speaking film world. You can tell he’s fully immersed himself as Lauda, and everything that comes with that, at times he is annoying, at others you feel immense empathy with him, it’s a great role, and if the film is seen by as many people as it is deserved to be seen by, he could be an outside shot at some awards nominations come the New Year.
Other cast members, include Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s supermodel wife, Suzy Miller and Alexandra Maria Lara, as Lauda’s Marlena. The two are mainly restricted to being emotional weights on the two drivers, and it’s a shame they don’t have a lot else to do other than watch their men racing or suffering due to their racing. Brits and ‘Green Wing’, alumni Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan are great as Hunt’s two managers, throughout the years, and as a ‘Green Wing’, fan it was both funny and surprising to see them pop up.
The soundtrack to this film is magical. Strictly speaking the raw, primal roars of the F1 cars aren’t a part of the soundtrack, but every time you hear them, you know something big is coming! The race starts, as I mentioned earlier, are great moments, seeming as authentic as possible, matching the great action on-screen. Songs by David Bowie and Mud enlighten the airwaves in the background, whilst the main player, Hans Zimmer, brings a cello-based score, a perfect accompaniment to the action and drama, adding a deeper layer of drama when needs be.
With amazing racing scenes never seen before, a great, real script from Peter Morgan, that captures the glamour, the danger and the politics of 1970’s Formula 1 and enough humour and drama to match, ‘Rush’, is a great film. It may suffer from F1’s lack of popularity in the US, but I’d expect the racing mad fans around the world to lap up this excellent piece of work. It helps that we see prominent action in Japan, Germany, the UK, Spain and with a nice worldwide cast, it should do some good business aswell as garner critical praise. In all honesty, similar to ‘Senna’, you can neither know anything about F1 or like it, but there will still be a part of ‘Rush’, you’ll enjoy. Be it the cars, sound, action, lead performances, or simply the captivating stories of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.