In the 1970s, Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) had a merciless rivalry that inspired them both to be better, if only to beat the other. Rush chronicles the enmity between the two, and their rush to beat the other to be world champion.
Ron Howard has a habit of creating great movies. Rom Howard has a habit of creating great movies from true stories, so hopes are justifiably high for Rush. Knowing nothing about Formula One or the two drivers at the heart of the film, I went in to the film curious, and with an open mind. Chris Hemsworth takes on the role of James Hunt a gorgeous playboy driver who seems to have more interest in the trappings of fame than actually earning it. Hemsworth’s character arc is one that we have all seen before, so while he certainly looks good, and has some great lines of dialogue, he is actually the less interesting of the two central characters. Daniel Bruhl has made great choices throughout his career, and Rush is one of them. Bruhl plays Lauda as a man who could not be less like his rival; he is driven and focused, and willing to do anything to be the best at what he does. Cracks begin to show in his icy veneer as he constantly compares himself to the more liked and likeable Hunt, and this vulnerability is a great counterpoint to the determination he shows on the track.
The rest of the cast is made up of Natalie Dormer as a nurse seduced by Hunt, Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s wife, Christian McKay in a great turn as Hunt’s wealthy and affable but rather short sighted sponsor, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan. Wilde is completely underused in her role; she looks great but does not have an awful lot to do, and the rest of the cast feel like they are simply caught up in Hemsworth and Bruhl’s orbits.
Ron Howard has created a film in which audience sympathy swings between the two lead characters, and a world that feels full and real. The trouble is that it is incredibly easy to see where the story will go. Some great choices are made with regard to editing and chronicling the races that the two rivals competed in, and the game changing crash is shown in visceral glory, but it is almost too easy to see where the story is headed. That said, the journey is solidly crafted, but perhaps this story has been told too many times before, or maybe real life is really not that much stranger than fiction. Whatever the cause, when the finale arrives, the audience could easily place their bets on the outcome.
Rush is a film that revolves around the two male leads and they manage their jobs admirably. They provide a strong counterpoint to one another – although even this feels a little too convenient at times – and the fact that audience empathises with both drivers – and, at times, neither – shows that this is a film crafted by a great storyteller. It is just a shame that the story feels so very familiar.