Saturday, 19 April 2014


Rush (2013)

Starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl

Directed by Ron Howard

Ron Howard is an odd film-maker. On the one hand he can put out films which are breath-takingly good, of which I count this one, "Apollo 13" another, and so on. Yet he can also churn out stuff that is groaningly bad, say the "DaVinci Code" and its sequel, or "The Dilemma". This film falls squarely into the former category, his direction being solid, unflashy and unobtrusive.  He tells the extraordinary true story of the 1976 Formula 1 racing season, one of the closest in history; in particular it focuses on the relationship between the two best drivers of the time, Austrian Niki Lauda, and Britain's James Hunt.  Both men were risk-takers who raced hard, but that's just about where  the similarity ends.  Lauda is shown to be serious and stern off the track, working brilliantly with his teams' engineers to heighten the speed and performance of the cars.  Hunt, on the other hand was a total playboy, partying it up as hard as he raced, living it up to a lifestyle of booze and birds.

Don't be put off if you're not a fan of, or know nothing about Formula 1, because like the recent documentary "Senna", this is a story of humans and emotions.  Written by Peter Morgan (who seems to specialize in two-handed human drama, having "The Queen", "Frost / Nixon" etc under his belt) the writing is solid and evokes the passion, even if sometimes a little "Basil Exposition", for the uninitiated. The racing sequences are superb nonetheless - brilliantly shot by Anthony dod Mantle ("Slumdog Millionaire") and edited by Bafta winning Dan Hanley and Mike Hill (Howard regulars). They're nail-bitingly exciting, well choreographed and staged, in one instance absolutely terrifying, truly a reminder of how dangerous racing was back then.  In one scene Lauda matter-of-factly accepts this, saying "Yes, I know, I could die every time I get in my car".  He undergoes a terrible trauma during the season, interestingly after a pre-race drivers meeting in which the drivers debate whether the weather conditions make it safe to race.  Hunt goads him into letting the race go ahead, and the worst happens.  Lauda shows his physical and mental strength to fight his way back into the car - some of this is painful to watch, certainly not for the squeamish.  But it sets up a remarkably tense and tight finish to the season (I won't spoil it for you)

In their roles as, respectively Hunt and Lauda, Chris Hemsworth (he of "Thor" fame) and Daniel Bruhl ("Inglorious Basterds") are both superb.  It's a shame that there have been so many impressive performances this year as I'm sure at any other time they both would have been certainties for awards.  Their physical resemblances to the real life man is a bonus, but it's just good casting.  It's down to the actors themselves to deliver, and here they certainly do.  Also notable in smaller roles are Olivia Wilde as Hunt's wife Suzy Miller and Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene Lauda.  And it was amusing to see Stephen Mangan crop up in a cameo as a nechanic.  Furthermore there's one other character worth mentioning: the sound.  In the racing scenes the sound of the powerful engines pumping and speeding away, rolling through the gears brings the film to life in a quite remarkable manner.

So this is powerful stuff, exciting, emotional, technically flawless and expertly played.  Arguably a period piece, the sense of time and place are well and truly evoked.  I really enjoyed it and found it to be one of the best films of the year.  I saw it on a double-bill with "Gravity".  What a strange experience that was!


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