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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Rush’ brings remarkable sports rivalry to the big screen

    Exclusive Media Group
    Exclusive Media Group

    The Formula One racing rivalry between Britain’s James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria’s Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) drives both of them to their limits in the biographical film “Rush.” The film is the complete package, with its racing scenes operating on a visceral level, while the undeniable dynamic between Lauda and Hunt provides intellectual and emotional depth.

    “Rush” addresses the age-old question of how far someone is willing to go to achieve success and become a champion. Hunt and Lauda start off in Formula Three racing (the minor leagues to Formula One’s major leagues), and it quickly becomes apparent that these two will be lifelong rivals. While the beginning of the film seems slightly aimless (and, admittedly, slightly boring), the pace quickly changes as the stakes rise and both drivers find themselves in Formula One. With neither finding any solace in second place, the pair clashes during the 1976 season; their constant jockeying for first quickly becomes the main attraction.

    Lauda and Hunt are rich characters rife with complexity. Their ideological differences, effectively laid out by the film, play out on and off the racetrack via their constant back-and-forth with each other. Hunt is a confident playboy, whose chiseled looks and flowing locks ensure he can bed any woman he sets his gaze on. He loves to drink and embraces the many pleasures of life that accompany fame.

    Lauda, then, is his perfect foil. He was not born with the good looks of his British counterpart, and generally has a sour disposition. While Hunt is excessive in his hedonistic lifestyle, Lauda is restrained, going to bed early and waking early. He manages his life to achieve the greatest winning percentage, but doesn’t seem to enjoy winning the way Hunt does. Showing how Hunt and Lauda’s differing philosophies impact their lives, both in and out of the car, lends the film an intelligence far beyond what’s expected of any racing-oriented action movie.

    This complexity is brought forth by the performances of Hemsworth and Brühl. While the effortless bravado of Hunt, who always has a quip prepared to bring Lauda down a peg, seems at times just too perfect and overdone, Hemsworth nevertheless delivers a good performance. He’s at his most believable when showing the human behind the playboy: doubtful, angry, vulnerable. Brühl unquestionably delivers the best performance of the film. His Lauda is tenacious and never backs down against Hunt. The earnestness that Brühl puts behind Lauda’s words, combined with a charismatic “better-than-you” attitude, results in a layered performance. He’s something of a pompous jerk, but you can’t help liking (and respecting) him.

    However, the narrative choice to use a frame story and have the characters provide voice-overs are unfortunate. The film starts off at the fateful 1976 German Grand Prix (the film’s best set piece, a rainy race under gray skies with a looming sense of doom), long after Hunt and Lauda are established, and then, after some foreshadowing, switches back to when they were both starting out. The voice-overs remove the viewer from the events on screen and rob the story of some of its immediacy. At the end, the movie looks back on the events of the story with a sort of mournful reminiscence, which makes them feel much smaller and insignificant.

    The racing scenes are tense and exhilarating. The movie doesn’t pull any punches, and it frequently reminds the audience of the gruesome realities of racing — where a split-second decision could end in a catastrophic crash. The cinematography makes use of a variety of angles, which creates the palpable atmosphere of a race. From close-up shots of the driver’s visage peering out of his helmet to wide shots of cars lined up at the start of a race, about to peel away, the cinematography adds to the film rather than merely displaying it. Even with this plethora of different perspectives, the audience is almost never lost in the action.
    Though a little slow out of the gate, “Rush” picks up speed and lives up to its namesake with white-knuckled racing scenes and two authentic characters who prove that rivals, no matter how bitter, are the only ones who truly understand each other.

    Grade: B

    Follow Alex Guyton @TDWildcatFilm

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