Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl. Olivia Wilde
Running Time: 123mins
Ron Howard, what can I say, I have a bit of a soft spot for the guy. Perhaps to me he will always be a little bit Richie Cunningham, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but as film and TV maker, Ron Howard is a bit of an oddball and his work is uneven, yet he managed to take me by complete surprise me more than once. I haven’t seen Apollo 13, but now I’m kinda curious, I didn’t really like A Beautiful Mind, it’s not my cup of tea and the only time I could stand Russell Crowe was in Man of Steel, don’t even get me started on the Dan Brown based films, the books don’t even warrant the words I’m typing now. But then there was Splash and he produced the little television gem that was Arrested Development in its first three seasons, and his collaboration with scriptwriter, Peter Morgan has produced the wonderful Frost/Nixon and now the exhilarating Rush. One can’t help but wonder if Richie Cunningham has an evil twin.
Peter Morgan is known for writing excellent bio-dramas about big personalities in the big moments of their lives. The Queen, The Damned United, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon, which started as a theatre play, and now Rush are all such stories. The last three as well as The Special Relationship, about the relationship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, showcase a fascinating theme of power battles combined with friendship and/or mutual appreciation, between two unique and public men.
The circumstances in which Morgan’s stories take place are always dramatic, the death of Princess Diana in The Queen for example and they become as present and as strong as the characters they surround. In Frost/Nixon the television, the close up and the art of interview were as part of the theme as was the actual interview/battle between David Frost and Richard Nixon.
Car racing is as foreign to me as the world of films is to Niki Lauda, as it turned out in the Q&A with Peter Morgan following the screening of Rush. I was happy when Morgan confessed he knows very little if at all about car racings or Formula 1, not that it comes across in the film, but when he was asked to write a script about car racing he found this story and used the Formula 1 setting to enhance the drama and the thrill.
And the story he found is of the famous rivalry between the British flamboyant playboy race driver, James Hunt and Austrian perfectionist and practical driver, Niki Lauda, which reached a dramatic climax at the 1976 Formula 1 championship. The differences in these two champions’ personalities and life styles are reflected in their driving, Hunt, a wild card and a risk taker, whose dangerous daring is the thing that made him a great driver, and Lauda patient and careful, whose perfectionism and excellent technical knowledge is what made him the great driver he was. They pushed each other’s button and at the same time brought the best out of each other.
Both Chris Hemsworth, whose, though wears the 70s quite well, nudity in the film was much appreciated, as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda, shine and give most compelling performances, which Howard directs with great sensitivity and at the same time great ease to create brilliant characters that are a real joy to watch.
Like in Frost/Nixon, the circumstances play a big part in the film. The racings, the cars, the Formula 1 setting and Lauda's famous accident, don’t just add to the thrilling pace and flow of the film, but they become instruments in the portrayal of these two legends, their differences and their relationship. I enjoyed the technical details of the driving, the gear changes, the use of the pedals and the different way in which each of them trained contributed to their character and the drama between them.
And so Rush is not just a thrilling race movie, but also a brilliant drama, full of humour, joy and suspense, yes even with history that is known Howard and Morgan manage to create wonderful suspense and thrill and suddenly, for 123 minutes, car racing is the most interesting thing in the world.
Rush opens in cinemas September 13th