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Rush' fires on all cylinders

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Rush Rush

Racing movie one of the year's best

It isn't easy to make a great sports movie. There are plenty of decent examples and quite a few good ones, but the true greats are exceedingly rare. It is just too difficult to marry the greatness of sport with the requirements of great cinema.

So when a great sports movie does make an appearance, it warrants our attention.

Director Ron Howard has made the latest great sports movie. More impressively, he has made it about a sport with which most Americans have only a nodding familiarity - Formula One auto racing. It details a real-life rivalry unfamiliar to many, yet as rife with tension and drama as any scripted story could hope to be. 

James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, 'Red Dawn') and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, 'Winning Streak') are arch-rivals, the top two competitors on the Formula One circuit in the mid-1970s. However, that is the only common ground they share. Hunt is a happy-go-lucky Brit who lives a life that is just as fast as his turns around the track. Lauda, on the other hand, is a meticulous Austrian, devoted to his racing career with a single-mindedness that allows no room for anything else in his world.

The two come up through the ranks together, butting heads due to their differing attitudes and philosophies. Each takes a different path to the big time, but once there, they quickly prove themselves to be a cut above the rest of the field.

Their rivalry reaches its pinnacle during the 1976 season; Lauda is having a season for the ages, with Hunt the only other driver who is even close. A devastating accident opens the door for Hunt; Lauda can only watch as Hunt makes up ground and turns a championship that seemed a foregone conclusion into one of the most hotly contested in recent memory. Lauda returns to the track far earlier than anyone believed possible, using his drive and talent to keep pace with Hunt.

It all comes down to the final race of the season a race that plays out in an unexpected fashion.

This is a great movie. The marriage of Howard's direction and a world of auto racing might seem an odd one, but the director's style and sensibility fit beautifully with his subject matter. He handles the racing sequences with a deft touch, creating engaging moments of tension. And he absolutely nails the overall aesthetic of the film; the whole thing has a period vibe far beyond just the costumes and affectations. From stylistic choices to filming techniques, 'Rush' looks like a film out of the 1970s.

Of course, none of that matters without strong performances. The cast as a whole is strong, but the two leads are absolutely phenomenal. Chris Hemsworth's talent tends to be a little underrated due to the nature of the parts that he plays the guy is Thor, for Pete's sake but his charisma is utilized to great effect as the devil-may-care playboy James Hunt. He encapsulates the larger-than-life nature of the Formula One driver beautifully.

But the revelation here is Daniel Bruhl. His turn as Niki Lauda is one of the most mesmerizing performances of the year so far; his journey is as fascinating as it is nuanced. It isn't so much that he captures the dour humorlessness although he absolutely does as it is that he shows us ever-so-brief flashes of feeling that humanize Niki without compromising the character. He's fantastic.

'Rush' is a great sports movie, yes but it's also a great movie, period. No qualifications are needed; Ron Howard offers up a snapshot of a rivalry that is both smaller and much larger than the two men locked within it.

[5 out 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 16:03


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