By Sandra Kraisirideja
In “Rush,” Formula One racing takes a backseat to the human drama that unfolds between two of its biggest stars and professional rivals—James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
NASCAR may be “second only to the National Football League among professional sports franchises in terms of television ratings in the United States,” according to Wikipedia, but in 1976 the world was mesmerized with Formula One racing and the competition that was heating up between Hunt and Lauda for the title of world champion.
The 1976 season is the focus of Ron Howard’s film, “Rush,” starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara.
Production designer Mark Digby (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and costume designer Julian Day (“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) effectively capture the feel of the era, especially with Wilde’s wardrobe. She plays Hunt’s first wife, Suzy Miller, as well as a model and actress, which gave Day plenty of options with regard to her costumes. Wilde does wear some of the more fun outfits in the movie.
Director Tony Scott set the bar with regard to race car driving on the big screen with 1990s “Days of Thunder” and Howard doesn’t really break new ground in terms of the action sequences for “Rush.” However, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire,” does capture some beautiful images, especially in the rain sequences.
Where the movie really shines is in telling the story of Hunt and Lauda as individuals and their rivalry. Usually in a movie about extreme sports the dramatic parts can slow the story down and seem like filler between the next action sequence. That wasn’t the case in “Rush.”
Screenwriter Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon”) was able to keep Hunt and Lauda from seeming like caricatures of themselves. Each has a depth that is more than what they first appear to be.
Actors Hemsworth and Bruhl are terrific as the two fearless drivers. Both give their characters an honesty that shows how these two men grew to respect each other despite their differences. They may not have chosen to spend time together socially, but Hunt and Lauda respected each other’s talent and that was enough.