Rush – a review of a Ron Howard film about a burn victim

So, I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front of late due to illness which has sapped my energy and left me as indifferent as your average teenager. I’ve got a couple of topics to tackle (ooh, minor alliteration; fancy!) but the first is a review of the film Rush by Ron Howard.

Rush, if you weren’t aware, is a story framed around the 1976 Formula 1 season, in which Britain’s James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth), driving for McLaren, battled with Austrian Niki Lauda (an astonishingly accurate Daniel Brühl) in his Ferrari. The fulcrum point for this relationship was the German Grand Prix in August, at the (in)famous Nürburgring (about an hour’s north of Cologne/Köln). Back then, the race took place on the Nordschleife section of the track – previously nicknamed the Green Hell, it was a dangerous 22km long lap (most laps are 5km/h by comparison) with 150 odd turns compared to 16 or so these days. A nightmare of a circuit.

The results are history, of course – the weather was awful, Lauda wanted the race called off, was overruled, and suffered a terrible accident that saw his Ferrari 312 catch fire. He spent a minute trapped in the chassis and, despite a low prediction of survival, was back in the cockpit less than month later. His burns were substantial and you can still see clear evidence of it today, almost 40 years later.

The film starts with their Formula 3 rivalry being born at Watkins Glen and culminates after Hunt wins his first title (Lauda was defending champion from 1975) in Italy. The rivalry between Hunt and Lauda is sexed up for the cameras – the relationship was not nearly as antagonistic as the film makes out, but since it lends itself to an interesting and enjoyable narrative, we can forgive this. Hunt and Lauda are at polar opposites; Hunt, brimming with raw talent and pace, is a playboy whereas Lauda is mechanical, methodical, and consistent. The film nicely ends with a serious of stills and videos from 1976, showing Hunt alone and with Lauda, and it’s genuinely aching to hear Lauda say that despite their rivalries and Hunt’s flippancy, he genuinely liked him and misses him (Hunt died in 1993, aged 45, of a heart attack).

Being a Formula 1 fan, I was one of the converted masses who hadn’t seen good racing since 1971’s Le Mans with Steve McQueen. The last good F1 movie? 1966’s Grand Prix, starring James Garner, Graham Hill (!), Jack Brabham (!!), and Lucille from Arrested Development. If the film showed the sport respect, we’d be happy. And it did; it’s not always accurate, but it isn’t grossly inaccurate and for the intended audience – i.e. not F1 fans – it damn near perfect.

Which brings me to my point – how does this rate for people who aren’t into F1? If you’re on the fence about this film, go see it. It will give you characters you care about (genuinely, you will feel for Lauda, even when his bluntness works against him) and racing that will excite you whilst not overwhelming you. Hell, it might also give you some insight into why we’ll religiously watch a 2hr race at ridiculous hours of the night/morning. This is a Ron Howard film, the same Ron Howard who gave us Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man or Apollo 13. It is shot beautifully, lovingly, and despite being self-funded, as professionally as any big studio picture. This is a Peter Morgan script, as tight as Frost/Nixon or the Queen. Hell, if Chris Hemsworth wandering around shirtless is enough to tempt you, go and be converted. You might just end up a Brühl fan too.

4.5/5 stars

 

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