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Rush - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Let's cut to the chase: I'm not interested in racing, even if it's in the context of historic events; I only went to see Rush because the reviews were surprisingly strong. And now I'm here to add to the pile, because I am proof that you don't have to like racing to like this movie.

Rush is about rivalry and obsession; it just happens to have racing as its backdrop. James Hunt, from England, and Niki Lauda of Austria are Formula One racers played, respectively, by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. The two actors both fairly significantly changed their natural appearances to play real-life characters. Brühl wore a mouthpiece to mimic Lauda's overbite, which Hunt constantly makes fun of him for, calling him "a rat." Hemsworth shed some thirty pounds for the role of James Hunt, and, well, let's just say the leaner look suits him extremely well.

Through most of the movie, neither Hunt or Brühl are portrayed as particularly likable characters. Of the two of them, only Hunt really has any charisma -- but he's cocksure in overbearing ways. But then, so is Lauda, just from a different angle: he proves to be "a genius" with optimizing car design, and is obsessed with winning by the book. In a way I suppose you could call this Revenge of the Nerd for the racing set.

About half the film tracks the development of the rivalry between these two men, as they both work their way up through the ranks in the early to mid-seventies. But then, tragedy strikes, and Lauda is severely injured in a racing accident. Hunt keeps racing while Lauda is in the hospital, gaining on him in points toward the world championship. Seeing these races on the TV in his hospital room give Lauda the motivation he needs to meet Hunt for one final showdown race that predictably serves as the film's climactic race.

Structurally, Rush is like a hundred other sports movies: triumph over adversity and all that. In this case, though, director Ron Howard infuses a unique nuance, and that climactic race doesn't go the way it would in any other movie that was strictly fiction.

The accident changes both of these racers, and gives them a respect for each other they didn't realize they had. Lauda is a conceited prick but it's impossible not to feel for him when he's having his lungs vacuumed. Hunt is pretty much always a playboy but he ultimately proves to have compassion for his rival. Not knowing anything about the real-life events, I was really afraid Hunt might throw a race in service of that compassion. It's possible this is a better movie for people who never had any idea who these guys were or what happened to them. For me, it was tense and suspenseful -- they way races should be.

And speaking of the races, they are expertly staged, placing us right in the action, alternating between points of view of the audience, the car, and the driver. Somehow, we become invested in both the excitement of the race and the ridiculous egos at stake in their outcomes. These men are largely just overgrown children with skewed priorities, and still we root for them. We can't even decide which of these two guys we want to win. And these are hallmarks of great filmmaking.


Overall: B+
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