Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde
Watch Rush online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“25 people start and each year, two die.” That’s James Hunt (Hemsworth) explaining Formula One. It sounds exciting but in real life, it’s far from it. Cars going around in circles for hours on end? It’s repetitive. Boring, even. You’d expect Rush, then, a film about exactly that, to be just as dull. It isn’t. Even for non-F1 fans, it’s far from it. “What kind of person does a job like this?” continues Hunt. Rush finds out. And the answer is thrilling.
Reuniting after Frost/Nixon, director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan cook up the same heated rivalry between two very different men: hunky Brit playboy Hunt and the ruthlessly logical Niki Lauda (Bruhl). Brushing up against each other in Formula Three, they both buy their way into the big league – polar opposites destined to attract trouble.
As with their last collaboration, there are contrivances. Changing details for dramatic convenience (the pair were actually friends in real life), what could have been a biopic has been streamlined with machine-tooled precision. Morgan hasn’t just written a film: he’s crafted a collision course. Fortunately, it’s one between two fantastic actors. Lining up to crash, the two leads flesh out their roles, giving the on-rails script real dramatic horsepower. The magnetic Bruhl is cool and driven as Lauda – it’s hard to believe this is the same boy who starred in Good Bye Lenin! all those years ago – while Hemsworth is electric as Hunt, a man whose lifestyle makes his reckless driving look restrained. All hair and teeth, when he’s on screen, it’s impossible to look anywhere else.
Howard uses these characters to hook us into his broadly familiar tale, giving us a reason to care about those cold machines driving in circles. He doesn’t skimp there, either: expertly cutting together archive footage, new set pieces and CGI work, the race scenes sizzle as though Tony Scott were behind the camera. And when things go wrong (as they inevitably do) and people get caught in the flames, the emotional impact is as powerful as the adrenaline rush beforehand.
There are occasional skids – some burn make-up looks straight out of BBC’s Casualty – but Hemsworth and Bruhl are too charismatic for you to care. Supported by immaculate period detail – Hunt’s hair, the jumpsuits, Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s other half, the model Suzy Miller, and did we mention the hair? – Rush is a finely-tuned clash of egos, which matches sentiment with speed.
Formula One may be boring in real life, but Howard’s drama is engaging enough to entertain those who don’t watch the sport – even with its inaccuracies, a mark of success. Hunt strokes his car early on, while wooing his future wife. “It’s a bomb on wheels,” he purrs. That’s exactly what Rush is. Your heart will be ticking every minute.
Rush is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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