I’m not much of a sports guy. When someone says “Who’s your team?” I usually have to think about it and I generally pick Seattle because that’s where I was born. I don’t really like watching sports, I’m not into NASCAR, I don’t really go for motorcycles or the Olympics – but there is one sport that I’ve always loved. Formula One Racing. The beauty of the cars, the exotic locations, the magnificent power, and the incredible drama.
When I was a kid – I didn’t really like video games – and I still don’t, but I used to spend all of my quarters at the Pizza Barn playing Pole Position and Monaco Grand Prix. What I’m trying to tell you is that Formula One isn’t like other sports – it’s far more dramatic – and that’s why Rush, the latest film from director Ron Howard was destined to become one of my favorite films even before it was made – and that worried me. You see, I know that the more I look forward to a movie, the more likely I am to be disappointed by it. Anticipation leads to disappointment…
…except in this case, Rush was anything but disappointing. Rush chronicled the intense rivalry and unlikely frinedship that grew between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the mid 1970s. I half thought I would be subjected to unnecessary drama, scripted love stories, and bullshit character revisions but Ron Howard delivered a film that stayed true and focused on the most important aspect of Formula One, the racing.
Okay, there is some drama and a bit of revision – but who doesn’t love the idea of the playboy versus the professor in the greatest and most dangerous arena the world has ever known? While there were other cast members, you probably won’t notice them as actors Chris Hemsworth as playboy James Hunt battles with the overly intellectual Daniel Bruhl as Nicki Lauda. Of course, you will notice the other lead actors – the cars and the tracks.
Watching this film, it’s easy to believe that Howard has somehow made use a time machine to transport his cast and crew to the 1976 Formula One races. Camera work on the film is superb with the excitement taking place both in and around the cars – at times I felt like a driver while at others I was transported into the crowd. Even knowing the outcome of the races, I found myself thrilling with the speed and courage of the drivers as they made history. Suddenly, I understood how NFL fans can watch the same game twice.
This film was symbolic of the change from mid-century to modern in Formula One – a change that was mirrored in world politics, drama, entertainment, and home life as well. On their way out were the frivolous mad men playboys of the 1950s and 1960s – going the way of the dinosaur were the aristocratic sponsors of yesteryear and in their place were the scientific sportsmen and financially astute businessmen that sponsored them. If there were a theme to the film – I would say this is it, but there is more to the film.
There is a depth to Rush which will surprise you. The friendship that grows between the two rivals is something beautiful that should inspire us all. It is a measure of balance, tolerance, and respect for talent. I don’t want to spoil it more than I already may have – but in most films you find a character arc that oftentimes borders on the absurd with leaps being taken that we are all certain would never happen in real life, but not so in Rush.
Niki Lauda: 25 drivers start every season in Formula One, and each year, two of us die. What kind of person does a job like this? Not normal men, for sure. Rebels, lunatics, dreamers… people who are desperate to make a mark and are prepared to die trying. My name is Niki Lauda. In racing, people know me for two things. The first is my rivalry with him. I don’t know why it became such a big thing. We were just drivers… busting each other’s balls. To me this is perfectly normal but other people saw it differently… that whatever it was between us went deeper. The other thing I’m remembered for is what happened on the first, August 1976, when I was chasing him like an asshole.
Hunt doesn’t change his nature, nor does Lauda. Instead, the two men grow and begin to encompass an understanding of one another that doesn’t require them to change – they transcend their differences to find their commonality – which, when it comes down to it – is a love of racing and a high degree of honoring the sport.
I’ll admit it – it wasn’t until the film was over and a friend online said “Wasn’t that Thor?” that I recognized Chris Hemsworth – his acting was that spot on. He was so believable that one can easily forgive him being Thor.
The amount of tension the film carried with pounding scores, pumping pistons, and the two men’s rivalry had me rooting for both sides and feeling a rush of my own all the way through. The editing on Rush was so tight that it felt like a 45 minute movie rather than a full length feature film.
Was the film accurate? Critics have said the rivalry was over the top, but Nicki Lauda himself said it was accurate in every detail. How cool is that?