Ron Howard’s latest offering ‘RUSH’ sees two of Hollywood’s hottest properties Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl take to the screen as 70s Formula One racing rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, respectively.
Protagonist and antagonist are immediately set up as polar opposites, Hemsworth taking to the foppish blonde playboy of Hunt with swashbuckling aplomb and Bruhl weaseling his way into the acetic rodent-like visage of Lauda with chilling authenticity. Hunt is the loveable rogue, Lauda the disliked outsider. Both are arrogant in their own ways: Lauda shows distain for the driving ability of his peers, Hunt for conformity and fidelity. We’re supposed to like Hunt and dislike Lauda and then get the emotional pay-off of the two ultimately coming together in the end as comrades with mutual respect.
This archetypal ‘hero and villain’ set up, although effective, does feel somewhat laboured and old as we’re spoon fed their respective journeys through a series of clichéd highlights. The opening scene sees Hemsworth topless and cavorting with the hospital nurse who’s treating his injuries after being assaulted by the husband of another woman he worked his undeniable charms on. At the other end of spectrum, Bruhl takes to the role of anti-hero perfectly and steals the show with his characterisation of Lauda, a fantastic physical performance of impersonation and insight. Maybe it’s the accents but at times it was as if Hemsworth was playing a blond James Bond rather than James Hunt (even saying, ‘Hunt, James Hunt’ when first meeting his soon-to-be wife) with Bruhl’s Lauda the super villain.
The recreation of everything 1970s Formula One is flawless. The cars and racing are depicted superbly with Lauda’s infamous crash in 1976 reenacted to the centimetre but all this dedication to authenticity doesn’t make up for an overwhelmingly flat, two-dimensional portrayal of such a dynamic and explosive rivalry. Save for a couple of scenes, where we see Hunt attack a journalist after his callous questioning of Lauda at the first press conference after his near fatal injury and a final ‘buddy’ moment towards the end of the film, where they show a genuine camaraderie born out of their shared experiences of driving a ‘bomb on wheels’ at over 170 miles per hour.
Part dedicated biopic, part fanciful fairytale, ‘RUSH’ is impeccable in its dedication to detail and will probably clean up at the Oscars for costume, hair&make-up, set design, special effects etc etc. but it leaves you wanting more. More depth, more insight, just more of who these two drivers really were, how they felt about one another and their beloved sport.
With Ron Howard in the driver’s seat the film hits all the right notes and delivers a solid piece of entertainment: thrills, spills and laughs in all the right places but it doesn’t do any more than that. If you want to see a Formula One film that really tells a story and delves inside the life of one of the sport’s greats, watch Asif Kapadia’s 2010 masterpiece ‘Senna’. If you want to see a more compelling and emotive rivalry, then watch ‘Zoolander’.