Rush (opening today) is one of director Ron Howard’s best films, and that’s saying something. The former childhood star of The Andy Griffith Show has gone on to direct some of the most entertaining and memorable films of the past few decades, films like Cocoon, Willow, Parenthood, Apollo 13, Backdraft, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon. With Rush, he puts the pedal to the metal and weaves a fascinating story about life lived on the edge.
The story re-creates the real-life rivalry between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), whom, at the pinnacle of their careers in the mid-1970s, were the cream of the crop in the sport. Their style of racing matched their off-the-track personalities as well, with James Hunt as the wild playboy and Niki Lauda being down strictly for business. Where Hunt would take gambles on the track, Lauda’s championship-track was based on numbers and working the odds to his favor.
If you’re thinking, “Eh, another racing movie…” you will be in for a surprise. I myself am not a huge fan of the genre, but comparing Rush to a film like The Fast & The Furious is like saying Citizen Kane and Cool Runnings are similar because they both contain sleds.
Ron Howard masterfully weaves a film that makes you root for both men at different times. Just like a real race between the two, the film’s narrative jockeys for position. At times we follow Hunt and then just as quickly, the focus shifts to Lauda. Dramatically, the film feels like a race to tell both men’s stories…a compliment. There is a crackling energy behind nearly every frame of Rush. It’s almost impossible not to be absorbed into the story.
There were some minor quibbles: A scene towards the end where both drivers state the obvious – in case the viewers missed it – was unnecessary. Some of the supporting performances weren’t fleshed out all that much.
It is about the world of racing, the dangers these men face and the sort of men who would welcome such a profession. But it’s also a story about friendship, finding out about oneself and discovering a purpose. It contains some good laughs, some nail-biting action and some gruesome, stomach-churning realities. This is Chris “Thor” Hemsworth’s best dramatic performance to date and for Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda, it’s the kind of role built for award season.
These performances, themes and more make Rush a real winner.
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Daniel Bruhl, Rebecca Ferdinando, Tom Wlaschiha
Written by Peter Morgan (Hereafter, Frost/Nixon, The Queen)
Directed by Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Backdraft, Cocoon)
Opens locally on Friday, Sept 27, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli’s “Star Ratings:”
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time