Rush: the glamour and tragedy of F1

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Rush is an exhilarating true story, sure to please both fans of Formula 1 and Ron Howard.

 

I love Formula One. I love the cars, the personalities and the races.  I love the history, and therefore it was almost inevitable that I would love Rush, a new film directed by Ron Howard charting the historic 1976 F1 season and the legendary rivalry between top drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  These two excellent drivers, Hunt played by Chris Hemsworth and Lauda played by the little known but well regarded actor Daniel Brühl, are shown as having a tumultuous relationship that spurs both of them on to ever greater risks on the track, despite the horrific safety record of F1 at the time.

It is the risk of death that accompanied F1 during the ‘70s that is the real driving force of the film, with Lauda commenting in the opening scene that F1 drivers were all desperate lunatics.  The special effects throughout the film illustrate these risks very well and are unbelievably realistic, I indeed found myself not breathing during the horrific scenes of Lauda’s near fatal crash a credit to Ron Howard’s excellent directing.

Niki Lauda himself has stated how impressed he was by the accuracy of the film, despite the fact that elements of his relationship with Hunt have been altered. Fundamentally, the rivalry between the two drivers has been exaggerated so as to make the conclusion, where both drivers acknowledge the respect they have for each other, more satisfying.

Howard chooses to accentuate the differences of the two men to make them into two halves of the same whole.  Lauda is secretly envious of Hunt’s ability to be liked. However, Hunt is clearly trying to catch up with Lauda’s superior skill. In the end, Hunt finds validation by winning the championship and Lauda’s choosing love over racing is a romantic one, but avoids being clichéd.

Brühl’s skilled portrayal of the difficulties Lauda faces in choosing between the glorious highs but near-fatal lows of F1 and the love of his wife deserves particular praise, especially in a film that is clearly centred on the playboy lifestyle of Hunt. I would be surprised if major award nominations are not on the horizon for this actor.

Hemsworth holds his own with his excellent portrayal of the charming but damaged Hunt, while a well-rounded supporting cast including Olivia Wilde and Pier Francesco Favino also excel.  Rush has managed to emulate the award winning Senna (2010) in taking a relatively niche subject like F1 and making it accessible and interesting to not only the fans, but also the general public.

Ultimately, Rush is about friendship and rivalry, love and danger.  These are universal themes played out over a historic season of one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

It is not only a thoroughly enjoyable story told by a fabulous director with star turns from the two leads, but it is also a fabulous throw back to a time when racing was dominated by personalities and a glamour that has largely been forgotten.

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