Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Rush Review

Ron Howard feels the need, the need for speed! Getting inside the beautiful minds of not one but two Formula One race car drivers in Rush, his latest film grips as hard as the drivers grip the wheel. It's frequently buttock clenching, white knuckle stuff as engines roar, gears shift and rain pours on unforgiving race tracks.

Dreamy Chris Hemsworth is long haired British lothario, the cocksure and arrogant James Hunt. His nemesis is rat faced German, the know-it-all Nikki Lauder played by Daniel Brühl. The pair are contemporaries and fierce competitors, making their far too fast on-track showdowns breeze by in breathless set pieces. Off the track the sparks also fly with Lauder and Hunt trading insults and revving each other up so much their rivalry becomes their reason to live... and very possibly their reason to die.

Hunt and Lauder's fight for the championship is the stuff of Formula One legend with both racers refusing to give an inch or back down in the face of incredible danger, personal injury and in the case of Nikki Lauder a particularly terrifying brush with death.

As fun as some of the off track scenes can be, the supporting characters never get much room to breathe. Hemsworth and Brühl hold the film together, the film starting with dueling voiceovers from each of the pair. Despite both playing seriously flawed characters with little to like in either, the stars find room to wrap around your heart and skid into likeability by the end. Brühl is particularly adept at making Lauder completely understandable, and if not wholly likeable, at least deserving of a huge amount of respect.

Formula One is still very much a man's world and the women, including Olivia Wilde get little to do except mope on the sidelines. Though Hemsworth might be unacceptably sexy, it is easy to see why beautiful women are attracted to the drivers for other reasons. Though the thought of grown men racing round and round a track, risking their lives for money, glory and the title of champion might seem silly to some, the bravery of the men and the risks they rush into become quickly clear and surprisingly alluring even to those of us who have no interest in watching race cars whizz round a track.

It is on the track however where Rush really races into pole position. For a film about Formula One the track scenes are relatively few and far between and rush past in a blur of inventive angles, slick editing and roaring sound design. Freeze frames, intense close ups and cameras in every place imaginable make the race scenes incredibly tense, especially when the rain starts to pour. Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle captures every drop and frames the moody skies over the proceedings like ugly portents of doom. With cameras even right next to the eyes of the actors as their helmets are put on, we are right there in the action as the cars race, collide and crash their way round the tracks.

Though many will know the story and may even have seen the races or the terrible crash that nearly killed Lauder, they will not have seen behind the helmet of the man as he recovered in hospital. The scarily real recreation of the crash is brutal and heart stopping and the race that leads up to it is terrifically tense whether you know the story or not. The stakes are raised each time either Hunt or Lauder gets in a car and it is a shame that so many of the races are rushed when the cinematography and score are so effective. For a film that could have done with a bit more action, the mood is more sombre, the score adding to the sense of dread and sadness at what is to come.

However Rush does not dwell on the down sides. It is a film that finds the humour in the characters, their rivalry and even their tragedy. Hunt and Lauder may have faults but they made each other better racers and Howard and writer Peter Morgan find the insecurities and arrogance endearing and worthy of investigation. 

Some moments of the script might steam ahead into obvious sound bites but Rush never fails to raise a smile or take its lead pair too seriously, making it easy to forgive the odd line that spells out the characters motivations, feelings or the message of the film. Hemsworth and Brühl consistently sell their real life characters and manage to make both men surprisingly warm and likeable antagonists despite their conflict, an admirable achievement for both actors in the circumstances.

Peter Morgan continues his fine work with real life figures and particularly two-handers in the tradition of his previous collaboration with Howard, Frost/Nixon. His knack for character and dialogue could be the reason the film comes in at the two hour mark while giving short shrift to vital race scenes that could have fuel injected Rush onto the 5 star winners podium. Whether you like cars or not, Rush will get your heart beat racing.

Release date:  September 27th, 2013
Running time: 123 minutes

Director:  Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan

Cast:  Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde
Here is the trailer:

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