Rush is a Formula One racing drama of almost irresistible forward momentum. The on-track action is blistering, the filmmaking sure-footed, the characters bigger than life.
Even more important, it avoids the stock plotting that turns most sports movies into bland emotional pick-me-ups. Its one of the best films of Ron Howards career; certainly the most surprising. Who knew that this competent craftsman had such a furiously exciting, sex-drenched story in him?
By granting equal time to two historical figures, devil-may-care English golden boy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and his dark, calculating Austrian rival Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), the film turns their racing rivalry into a collision between diametrically opposed personalities.
Hemsworth is nearly as glamorous a demi-god here as he is in the Thor movies. The rodent-faced Bruhl is a central casting villain. Hes an obnoxious know-it-all, doubly irritating because hes nearly always right.
Dont decide too quickly whom to root for. Our sympathies shift as fast as a racer negotiating a tight curve.
The shrewd script by Peter Morgan (The Queen) stresses the parallels in the mens lives. Each came from a family that disapproved of high-risk sports. Each man is petulant and childish. Hunt was a callous playboy; Lauda coldly indifferent to his wife. Each is willing to put his life at risk for a jolt of adrenaline and adulation.
Theyre deeply selfish, giving little thought to the effect their risky careers have on friends and families. The virile, impulsive extrovert and the chilly, methodical introvert are kindred spirits, pushing each other to greater glory and ever nearer disaster.
Its a testament to the actors abilities that we find them partially sympathetic all the same.
There are clumsy passages here. We really dont need a debauchery montage set to David Bowies Fame to grasp that Hunt was publicity-drunk, for instance. Still, Rush brings the spectacle and exhilaration of the mid-70s Formula One circuit, while delivering something more complex than a stock underdog story.