Strong reviews continue to come in for Ron Howard’s “Rush,” which hits theaters September 20. Starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl (who generated Supporting Actor Oscar buzz at the recently wrapped TIFF) as real-life Formula 1 rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the film is a “virtuoso feat” (per Variety) that “breaks the mold” (per the Telegraph).
The lone dissenter at the moment is Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf, who writes that the movie “leans on symbolic imagery that’s alternately tired and ridiculous…[Hunt and Lauda’s] tale deserves more gas in the tank.”
It’s both a perceptive dual character study and, that rarity
of rarities, a large-scale action movie for grown-ups, one worth leaving the
Utterly gripping. Aided by two punchy lead turns, an
Oscar-worthy script and stunning in-car footage, Howard’s race film delivers
top-gear drama. A piston- and heart-pumping triumph.
Mozart vs. Salieri. Kennedy vs. Khrushchev. Gates vs. Jobs.
Add to that list of epic clashes Formula 1 adversaries James Hunt and Niki
Lauda, whose larger-than-life bout for the 1976 world championship title fuels
Ron Howard’s exhilarating “Rush” — not just one of the great racing movies of
all time, but a virtuoso feat of filmmaking in its own right, elevated by two
of the year’s most compelling performances. It’s high-octane entertainment that
demands to be seen on the bigscreen, assembled for grown-ups and executed in
such a way as to enthrall even those who’ve never watched a race in their life.
Most modern-era car racing movies, from Grand Prix and Le
Mans to Days of Thunder, have been far stronger at portraying the excitement on
the track than at developing interesting downtime drama among the characters.
But rather the reverse is true with Rush, which offers perfectly coherent
racing coverage but devotes far more time to exploring the personalities of two
drivers who represented behavioral polar extremes and drove each other to
It’s a credit to Peter Morgan’s screenplay that one can come
to understand and sympathize with both of them, even though there are many
reasons one might not easily warm to either one.
Rush breaks the mould; its racing scenes are thrilling, and
the personal dynamics in the pits and away from the track genuinely intriguing.
Here’s a Formula One story that’s not just for petrolheads. Of course, it’s not
really a Hollywood picture at all, but a generously budgeted independent film.
Rush combines studios’ production values and their penchant for action with
British-flavoured storytelling. No coincidence that Working Title’s Eric
Fellner, a producer on Senna, has a similar function here.
True to its title, Rush makes rousing viewing, even if the
adrenalin thrill of the race sequences themselves can’t always disguise the
cliché-ridden aspects of Morgan’s screenplay.
Hunt (played with tremendous brio by Australian actor Chris
Hemsworth) is a reckless, womanising playboy of a driver. Early in the film, he
is part of a team run by Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay), a flamboyant
aristocrat who decides to take a crack at Formula One almost on a whim.
When it hits top gear, Rush is a thrilling, frenetic
experience that immerses the viewer fully in a world that’s equal parts grit
and glamour, with admirable attention to detail and – despite a few liberties
taken here and there – a determination to be even-handed about both its
protagonists. It’s difficult to say whether the human story alone is enough to
appeal to those who aren’t at least passing fans of F1, but whenever it gets
behind the wheel it has a serious claim to being the best motor sport movie
Rush hits a few potholes, but in the end it reveals the
psyches of two men who only feel alive when they’re cheating death.