Film Title: Rush
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde
Running Time: 123 min
Ron Howard’s Rush – a study of the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt – is not an altogether easy sell. For every person who loves Formula One racing, there are half a dozen who find it as boring as it is cacophonous. In the US, even petrolheads are suspicious of this less relentlessly oval class of motor pursuit.
Nobody needs fear the waspy sounds of the track. The unstoppable Peter Morgan, who scripted Howard’s Frost/Nixon, focuses as much on the personalities as on the sport. Fans of motor racing will certainly get their money’s worth: the race sequences are breathtakingly noisy. Everybody else can enjoy a hugely amusing, relentlessly cheeky squabble between Teutonic Roundheadness and roast-beef Cavalier.
Rush focuses on the 1976 season, a series that saw Hunt exceed his potential and Lauda recover from a famously horrible crash. It’s worth noting that the racing began just a few months after “The Germans” episode of Fawlty Towers first aired. The British have, for the most part, moved on from sensitive rivalries with their old sparring partners. But the film unashamedly plays to those stereotypes once more with feeling.
Lauda comes across as the disciplined, anal, humourless German (actually Austrian, of course) prison camp commandant who is constantly frustrated by the beery antics of the jokey British officer in his charge. Daniel Brühl clicks his metaphorical heels as the courageous Lauda. Chris Hemsworth shags, boozes, smokes and swears with great enthusiasm as the annoyingly charming Hunt.
We have, perhaps, seen quite enough recent films that have fun with the big hair and loud fabrics of the 1970s. But Howard and Anthony Dod Mantle (once the in-house cinematographer to the Dogme 95 crowd) find an impressively fresh way with potentially stale material. Blurred, brassy and slick, the images look as if they were plucked from a contemporaneous Martini commercial (and not because such promos often included racing cars).
For the record, some commentators have remarked that the competition between Lauda and Hunt was nowhere near as personal as it is portrayed here. Most of the rest of the story holds up to scrutiny. Besides, none of that matters much. The acting is so fun, the images so glamorous and the jokes so sound that Rush would delight even if you’d never heard of these guys.
Come to think of it, we weren’t all that sure until they waved this chequered flag. Go. Go. Go.