Drivers’ Cinema: Rush (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.