By Brent Glass
I begin this post with a vow: I will not, no matter how tempting, make a pun based on the title of Rush. To my surprise, even creative writers such as Bill Simmons employed such a method. But I will not. I will rise above the appetizing pun. Last weekend I saw the film Rush. Let me tell you, it was a rush. (Sorry).
I took the bait. Like many other movie-lovers, I had been waiting for Rush to come out for quite some time. It was directed by Ron Howard, and considering his last two films were less than subpar, it had to be good; he was past due. Beyond that, the trailer was a mess. A good mess. As I have shared before, Blake and I have a theory: ambiguous movie trailers produce great films. Of course there are always exceptions but I believe there are a lot of good examples. The next film I believe will fit this bill is The Counselor. Watch the trailer. You probably have no idea what the movie is about but I reckon it’ll be pretty darn good. I felt similarly about Rush. I knew it was about racing and philandering, but not much else.
Rush had a rudimentary story; there was nothing too complex about it. In many circumstances that would be considering a shortcoming, but excellent acting and precise storytelling made the basic plot impressive. As with most racing movies (Days of Thunder, Talladega Nights), this film was about a rivalry and a traumatic accident.
James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a handsome English free-spirit who enjoys his booze and women. Willing to risk his life, he often makes moves on the track others would not dream of, progressing him through the ranks of professional racing. Then there is Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Lauda is a calculating, cold individual who views racing as a mathematical equation. Despite the threat of losing the right to the family fortune, Lauda becomes a racer. Hunt and Lauda first meet in Formula 3 racing, two steps below Formula 1. Their personalities clash. Hunt pulls a risky move, winning him the race and knocking Lauda out. Lauda develops animosity.
Despite his initial failure in Formula 3, Lauda takes out a personal loan and buys his way into Formula 1. Lauda excels and Hunt eventually follows suit. Their rivalry ripens in Formula 1 until Lauda gets in a fiery wreck. Because of tumultuous weather conditions, Lauda wanted to cancel the race. However, Hunt swayed the other drivers to vote to race despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions. Throughout Lauda’s recovery, Hunt gains formidable ground in the standings while developing an admiration for Niki. Ultimately the season comes down to the last race. Hunt is still three points behind Lauda, but can secure a World Championship with a top 3 finish so long as Niki receives zero. Battle wounds and all, Lauda participates in the final race while another torrential downpour ensues. After a couple laps, however, Niki pulls into the pit and decides he is finished; the film suggests it was for the love of his wife. In dramatic fashion, Hunt finishes third and secures the World Championship. Months later Hunt and Lauda run into each other at an airport. Hunt tells Niki that he has no reason to race anymore since he has reached the top, but Lauda implores Hunt to stay in racing. The rest of the film includes informational text over actual photographs of James Hunt and Niki Lauda. If you want some actual historical context, look here.
One may hear this tale and decide that it wasn’t very original and/ or compelling. Normally I would agree with that sentiment. I am all for fresh perspectives and stories that have not been told before. Yet, no matter how much Rush reminded me of other tales, it was compelling. Many racing movies appeal to a certain type of moviegoer; the Transformers 2 super-fan-type. They are a special breed, not in it for the story line or the character development, but for the explosions and over-the-top sixty-minute ultimate battle scenes. They are the type of people that prefer the episodes I, II, and III of Star Wars (just despicable if you ask me). Rush, amazingly, was able to be a movie both for the aforementioned individuals and those with a more sophisticated palate. (Wow, I hope I don’t sound too much like a snob).
Ron Howard did an amazing thing: he took a very basic story and created a fascinating drama intertwined with titillating race sequences. He made an old story appear crisp. Obviously this was not without some help. Another reason you should definitely check out Rush is because of the acting. I had seen Chris Hemsworth in a few roles before Rush but none of which hinted that he was capable of the performance he displayed. On more than one occasion, I thought that this could be a breakthrough role for the young actor. It is not as promising when you look at what films are on deck for him, however. He has the second Thor movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Snow White and the Huntsman 2. Don’t get me wrong, Thor and The Avengers were decent movies; they’re just not roles that generate acclaim for being a great actor. There is always the chance he will break from his current mold soon, though. Rush was a taste of that. Alongside Hemsworth was Daniel Brühl.
If you see the movie and have one of those he looks so familiar but I don’t know where from moments, I’ll tell you right now, he’s from Inglourious Basterds as the hero-Nazi-soldier. Fantastic actor. His face was altered in the film to make him look more like a rat… more like Niki Lauda. His performance was just as captivating as Hemsworth’s, but that should be expected if you evaluate his experience. Scroll through his IMDB page. This man churns out movies left and right. Many are foreign films (he was born in Spain), but he had a few that are household names in America.
Overall, Rush was a fun film. It masterfully balanced many different aspects of cinema in one production. It was a great example of how to execute storytelling. I would definitely see this again, though I would want to make sure I had a large screen television and surround sound. 9/10
Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either economics, public policy, political science or business.