RUSH. Starring Chris Hemworth, Daniel Bruehl, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde.
Directed by Ron Howard. 123 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (injury detail and coarse language).
Any fan of Formula One will not want to miss Rush.
And for those who are not so keen or dislike it intensely, there is a human drama here amongst all the races and competitiveness which is of more than ordinary interest.
The focus of the film is on the Formula One races of 1976. The film has established both the characters of British James Hunt and Austrian Nicky Lauda. They both come from wealthy families and have fathers who disapprove of their choices of racing driving. However, they are independent-minded, stand up to their parent and decide that this is their vocation. James Hunt is the very British public school student who lives a privileged life - and rather exploits it in his partying and womanising. He has a group of friends who finance him in his move up the rungs towards Formula One. Lauda, on the other hand, invests money in racing companies and makes himself indispensable to them, especially with his engineering skills and his ability to work on cars to make them go faster.
Both coming on the scene at the same time brings an almost inevitable move towards the competitiveness - although it appears that they shared rooms initially, something omitted from the film to highlight the rivalry.
Chris Hemsworth who has proven himself a very reliable Thor in both the original film as well as The Avengers and the soon-to-follow new adventures of Thor. This time he has a fine opportunity to create a character and he does so with great aplomb. Daniel Bruehl is a very reliable screen presence in many films from Germany and Spain (he has parents from both countries) as well as in a number of English-language films. Hunt is handsome and debonair, Lauda is a driven and disciplined man in a severely Teutonic way, has some protruding teeth which, he acknowledges, makes him look rather rodent-like. However, whenever he looks like, he is a champion driver and absolutely determined.
The film then settles down to show the races of 1976. They are filmed with a pounding musical score as well as the inevitable noise volume of the cars, heightened by the sound engineering, so that fans will feel (and hear) that they are actually watching races in real life. The filming and editing of the racing sequences is expert, capturing all the excitement not only for an observer but with shots from inside the cars, the drivers’ take on the speed, the dangers, evading other cars, finding the gaps, as might be facetiously said, from their vroom with a view
Then comes the gruesome accident where Lauda is severely injured, especially in his face, which required some reconstructing. The film shows the pain he put up with in the process of healing, urged on by his watching Hunt on television beginning to catch up on point scores for world champion. Within weeks, the relentless Lauda is back on the track, determined to preserve his championship status from the previous year.
The film makes many points about the dangerous nature of Formula One at that time, Lauda organising a meeting of fellow drivers to ask them not to race because of the dangers. He is not a persuasive negotiator and they refuse.
Once back on the track, in the Formula One race in Japan, Lauda decides that the rain and wet track is too dangerous and withdraws from the race. Hunt perseveres in the very difficult circumstances and is able to achieve 1976 world champion status, by one point.
The film has an interesting gallery of supporting characters, especially from the different companies, and sponsors, indicating the background of finance needed to race Formula One cars. There is also some attention given to the human interest stories in the relationships of the two men. Profligate in his relationships with women, Hunt meets Susie Miller and impulsively decides to marry her. He is involved in his sport and partying life. She works in New York. The marriage is doomed, especially when she meets Richard Burton who leaves Elizabeth Taylor for the second time and marries her. The relationship between Nicky Lauda and his wife is much more serious, beginning with a humorous episode where she doesn’t believe he is a racing driver. When her car breaks down and two men give them a lift and are overawed that Lauda is driving their car. She is a strong-minded woman, allowing Lauda his passion for driving, not intrusive but very supportive.
We are informed at the end that James Hunt died at the age of 45 of a heart attack, and probably from very hard living. Nicky Lauda went into flight company work and established his own airline.
Two years ago there was a documentary on Ayrton Senna and his rivalry with Alain Prost, an intriguing and well-regarded film. But here is biography, semi-documentary, wiith a screenplay written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, The Audience, Frost/Nixon) and directed by Ron Howard, an expert in making films which are very popular, well-crafted. Howard is oone of the best Hollywood story-tellers (though no studio would finance this film and he made it with independent companies – with Lauda-like tenacity).
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 3, 2013.