Journal: Drivers' Cinema: Rush (2013)

Drivers’ Cinema: Rush (2013)

By Ezekiel Wheeler
September 26, 2013

Racing movies are nearly impossible to create well. Think about it: corralling cars, securing insurance in case something goes wrong and providing enough assurance that what you’re creating is the “real deal”. Since the creation of the motion picture, a truly amazing racing movie has only “made it” every few decades or so. Rush is a movie that has “made it”.

The movie takes place in 1976, during one of the most competitive seasons in Formula 1. The gladiatorial battle between Ferrari’s Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and McLaren’s James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth).

Ron Howard is known for choosing stories based on their compelling and triumphant foundation. Thanks to Formula 1, a healthy dose of competition has been added between two polar-opposite personalities. Who’s the hero and who’s the villain? Thats for the viewer to decide—we’d like to think it was the FIA allowing such barbaric racing to take place but that’s the allure of Rush.

I have to commend Ron Howard on the level of restraint he demonstrated creating a Hollywood automotive film. He was able to not only win over automotive enthusiasts with a heavy dose of “car porn” but those not familiar with Formula 1 racing culture could find excitement in each racing scene. My date for the evening, my mother, was delighted to see and hear the noises, along with the diverse personalities, associated with the lucrative world of F1.

Unique camera angles depicted real in-car shifts, engine ignition and standing starts filled with redlining wheel spin were all captured in races across the globe. Overhead sequences of trumpeted throttle bodies doused with racing fuel were paired nicely with cameras positioned inside the drivers helmets to show the intensity behind every race.

Luckily, throughout the entire movie, I could count on one hand when computer-generated cars were utilized: the obvious crash sequences. Lets face it, no one is going to risk setting a few million dollars worth of historic race cars on fire or recreate said race cars for a mere few seconds of footage.

Daniel Brühl’s depiction of Niki Lauda is eerily real. If you compare photos of the real Niki Lauda to Mr. Brühls on screen character, its as if he was born to play this role…literally. Post Nürburgring crash as well, the special-effects makeup team showcase agonizingly realistic details of freshly charred and rehabilitating flesh looks like. 

The movie does take a few expected Hollywood detours. Take, for example, Olivia Wilde’s character (Suzy Miller) appears like an apparition. Her introduction is abrupt, and her character is fleeting, matching James Hunt’s debaucherous exploits. Entertaining, yes. Necessary, probably not as much, but I get it.

(Insider tip: Keep an eye open for a certain Ferrari executive to take center stage without being formally introduced. It was a nice touch that had many enthusiasts glancing around the theater to verify what they had just seen.)


Perhaps one of the most riveting scenes was the ending. While many know how this tale ends, most do not, but its not the ending of the story itself that necessarily will win over non-F1 fans. What really pulled me to the brink of tears were the actual footage reels from 1976 that depict the bond and respect Niki and James had for each other. As a diehard enthusiast, I can watch a film about the triumphs of men on the racetrack (e.g. Senna and Le Mans) and tear up.

Before the movie fades to black, both cars accelerated flat out down a straightaway with their high-revving engines reverberating through my soul, ultimately solidifying my bond to the drivers, the cars, and film. The suspense is captured in a single sound bite from Chris Hemsworth’s character, James Hunt. “The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.” I’d like to think that under the right circumstances, I could put myself into the cockpit of either car and stand atop the podium, but for now my stage is Petrolicious. The only question that loomed in my mind as I exited the theater was wondering when I would get to experience it all over again.

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Melissa St, JoanJim LeademKostadin KostadinovFernando BunsterCJ David Recent comment authors
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Melissa St. Joan
Melissa St. Joan

Watched it on Netflix last year, I think what got me was the way the main characters were portrayed. It felt like I was reliving key moments of these men’s lives and that’s what kept me hooked through the whole thing. Things like that are what I look for in cinema.

Absolutely fantastic piece of automotive film and a must watch for any fans of Formula 1 who are curious about its history.

Jim Leadem
Jim Leadem

Saw Rush last week. Fantastic. Ron Howard did a fantastic job. I was a young F1 fan in 1976 and remember the season well. Casting was spot on. Details were impressive. Go see it on a big screen if you can.

Fernando Bunster
Fernando Bunster

I guess I expected too much from Rush. To me the characters were 2-dimentional. I felt I was watching a soap opera with the cliche Hollywood trappings of “we do it for the danger”. This is a movie made by a good director that is a F1 novice. I was there as a professional young photographer for those great seasons. Lauda and Hunt were the ultimate professionals—far from the caricatures that Ron Howard depicts. The track—each had a personality of their own. Larger than life arenas that were a great part of F1. Ron Howard misses dismally on this point.… Read more »

Kostadin Kostadinov
Kostadin Kostadinov

I really needed to hear an opinion like this. With all the excellent reviews this movie gets I thought I was loosing my mind. I felt that Lauda and Hunt were presented as extreme versions of the basic character differences that made them contrasting in people’s eyes, and really they were very 1 dimensional and uninteresting. And WTF is with the epilogue, is the idea of the movie “be care free and if you’re handsome and have talent, you don’t need to be hardworking and dedicated to achieve success”. Being on the top step in F1 even once requires extreme… Read more »


Perhaps it’s the pessimist in me, but most sports related movies, especially those depicting real life events, tend to miss the mark. I went into the cinema after having read as few reviews as possible and with an open mind. Rush treads the knife edge perfectly. Non car people will see a gripping tale unfold, while car people will see history brought to life. And the end, with the historic footage is quite emotional. Bravo Mr Howard. A difficult topic and I would say you nailed it.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

It’s a fantastic film and your review is spot on. I completely agree the last couple of minutes is a superbly well judged ending. In fact the movie is almost impossible to fault other than (spoiler alert) it is too easy to spot that a lot of the driving sequences were filmed at Brands Hatch and Cadwell park.

CJ David
CJ David

True, but given that they worked with an insanely tight filming schedule and a small (by Hollywood standards) budget, I think they did quite well. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell.

In a way, I liked Rush even more than Senna, even though I’m a big Senna fan. I feel that this movie really painted an impartial picture of an epic sporting rivalry, while managing not to make it a fight of good vs evil. I really think that Alain Prost got the short end of the stick in Senna, which was unnecessary.

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari

I went to see it last night; just terrific. I might need to watch it again before any true constructive feedback comes out but at my first viewing I was just enthralled.