Rush – Racing, Rivalry, Risks, Roar of Engines and the Crowd

If anyone had told me that I would have understood what it is to have a ‘Rush’ about Formula 1 car racing, then it’s likely I would have been not only stunned but also surprised.

Rush, based on a true story is former ‘Happy Days’ 70’s star Ron Howard’s latest directing feat. After taking in a late afternoon showing I am full of admiration for his efforts, as well as that of his fabulous cast. It was fast, furious, focused and the performances were fantastic.

The screenplay was wonderfully conceived and written by British film writer and playwright Peter Morgan. His dialogue was sleek and finely crafted. The editing of the movie was skilfully achieved so the adrenalin rush is continual.

Looking trim, taught and terrific Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth was brilliant as the mesmerizing James Hunt, a former British Formula 1 world champion driver whose lifestyle was both controversial and chaotic, a champagne celebratory soaked view of life.

He was a completely contrasting personality for his serious reserved rival the Austrian Niki Lauda, who is played with great elan by Spanish-born German actor Daniel Brühl. His performance is quite memorable.

Lauda was a meticulous man, one who weighed up the risks logically to ensure they always remained at an acceptable level.

Arrogant in many ways, he carefully thought out his moves before he made them. If he felt they were out of kilter he would bail out, preferring to continue to live his life rather than test his good luck.

However when Hunt smilingly challenges him one wet weather day he casts aside reason, caves in to his cajoling and competes in the race to his considerable detriment in a catastrophic crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix, which left him disfigured.

They were each other’s nemesis.

Ron Howard was a young man and my own three sons in their formative years during the 70’s and early 80’s when the sport of Formula 1 attracted front-page headlines on newspapers around the world, as well as attracted scores of fans to watch it on ‘the box’.

There were times when you would find yourself engaging with being low to the ground where it is so noisy all our body vibrates as you became part of the action on every level.

We remember well the rivalry, the risks, the racing, the roar of the engines and the roar of the crowd when someone was hurt, or as the winner crossed the line.

Daniel Brühl was for me outstanding as Niki Lauda, completely masterful in this role, one that seemed tailor made for his considerable acting abilities.

His performance leaves you with an indelible impression of a man whose confidence was unassailable. Obsessed with detail, he was blunt, straight talking and brave.

To prepare for the role as Niki Lauda in Rush Brühl met with Lauda, who is now aged 64. They formed a bond that helped him to shape his sensitive performance.

The terrible car failure that led to Lauda nearly being incinerated was indeed horrific.

Rushed to hospital, he had a team of six doctors and some thirty-four nurses working around the clock to save his life.

When they have to drain his lungs of fluid and gunk you know how horrible it must have been to have a tube pushed down into and pulled back out of his badly burned throat, which actually happened in filming so the scene was indeed both realistic and torturous.

The prosthetics he wore to simulate Lauda’s burned and scarred flesh, as well as false teeth to mimic Lauda’s overbite took hours to get him into character.

An extraordinary cosmetic achievement.

Rush is a tribute to those willing to lay their life on the line for their sport.

British racing drive James Hunt (1947 – 1993) had no fear.

He lived for and in the moment, bedding the latest beauty, boozing all night and then getting up the next day to race at the edge of his nerves yet again.

It’s not surprising he died of a heart attack, at what many would consider a young age only 45 years. He was renowned for his sexual exploits, his stamina and prowess both on and off the track. He lived life on his own terms.

Hemsworth plays the vacuous playboy Hunt brilliantly. He could have overacted, but doesn’t and with great insight and vulnerability nails Hunt’s personality perfectly. While we want to think there is a lot more of great depth going on behind that smile, there most likely wasn’t. In many ways  he was uncomplicated.

Hemsworth makes it obvious that Hunt had a deep respect and a kind of awe for Lauda, whom he admired tremendously, despite the rivalry between them.

Hemsworth allows us to understand how Hunt felt when a reporter trivializes Lauda’s serious accident in a public interview, forcing him to walk out.

Hunt like a predator follows the protagonist, drags him into a bathroom and punches him out unmercifully.

There is a very touching scene at the end of the movie where Lauda meeting Hunt in an aeroplane hanger talks to him, analysing their relationship over the years.

He comes to the conclusion he has learned a great deal from Hunt and tells him that he has helped him enrich his life by allowing him to know what it is he wanted from it.

Lauda tells him that he was inspired by the fierceness of Hunt’s competitive nature.

When he was in hospital it was watching Hunt winning on television during his absence that drove him to get well and have the shortest recuperating time possible so he could get back into the race and beat him.

Lauda had no regrets, taking his terrible disfiguring accident in his stride. He also knew taking a wife was often considered a hindrance and bad luck for those seeking to succeed at the top of the racing car game but it is plain he needed the solid grounding a family offered.

He had an advantage over all the other drivers. When he felt he had fulfilled his mission in one area of his life he was able to feel satisfied with his achievements and move on to the next new phase of his life.

After being world number one formula racing car champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984 Lauda re-invented himself as an aviator and as a businessman.

These two actors both bear an uncanny resemblence to the real Niki Lauda and the real James Hunt.

It is truly wonderful casting, but better still their performances are so convincing you feel as it you are involved in the story, such is Howard’s directing skill.

Having been born in Spain Daniel Brühl started acting at a young age. He will next be seen in the drama about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with Benedict Cumberbatch – The Fifth Estate. It will be a pleasure to follow his career.

Hemsworth has gone from strength to strength since his local television Home and Away days, which was followed by his first role in Hollywood when he played James Kirk’s (Chris Pine) father in the first Star Trek. He will be seen next back in his role as the hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees and strength, “Thor: The Dark World”

For me this was one of the best movies of the year.

My advice; Rush into your nearest cinema soon.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2013


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