By Benjamin Lane
Rush. (2013). Run time: 123 mins. MPAA: R (for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use). Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Natalie Dormer. Written by Peter Morgan. Directed by Ron Howard.
I have a radical notion that Rush, one of the greatest racing movies ever made, is as good as it is because the studio didn’t give Ron Howard enough money to shoot the thing. That’s a statement. But I believe it to be true. With that, Ron Howard proves a movie about a certain something doesn’t have to be 120 minutes of nothing but that certain something to be good. It’s a racing movie, but it’s not solely about racing. And it’s a bang up entry into Ron Howard’s canon.
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl strike cinematic gold with their performances of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two real life Formula One racers whose rivalry became something for the ages in the 1970s. Hemsworth sizzles up the screen with his striking masculinity that will leave all the girls stoked for finally seeing all of Thor, but not only that, he gives his all in this performance. He is explosive, tender, and fully immersed, and it may be the best performance of his relatively short career. But the standout here is Daniel Bruhl, dedicating himself to portraying Niki Lauda to the highest degree. Bruhl, having worked with Quentin Tarantino in my favorite film of his Inglourious Basterds and starring in the upcoming The Fifth Estate, has quite a career in store. He was terrific. Before and after a certain event happens causing him to be physically injured, Bruhl puts his talent on display and gives what I think is the best performance of the entire film. Supporting the central two is Olivia Wilde, sexy as always; Alexandra Maria Lara, giving some good work; and Natalie Dormer, who, if you’re like me and you love Game of Thrones, you may have a nerdgasm in the middle of the theater when she comes on screen.
Ron Howard is one of my favorite directors. Just something about him being Opie once and has risen to be a prominent filmmaker just amazes me. I love the guy. Sure, he has some bad movies, who doesn’t? (I know, I know, Christopher Nolan.) Far and Away, ouch. The Da Vinci Code, oucher. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, eh (guilty pleasure of mine.) But look at the good work he’s done. Ransom, Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind. Solid entries, a few of them actually great films. With Rush, it’s another solid. Working from a script from Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Howard directs this film intelligently, and when I say that I mean he knows what he’s doing. The budget for this Formula One racing biopic was $38 million. that’s a joke. But instead of complaining, Howard uses it to his advantage and crafts a timeless morality tale, focusing in the two leads and making the film, essentially, about their bitterness and the rivalry that ensues, and how zealousness can lead to ultimate friendship and respect. This is a beautiful looking movie, shot and lit gorgeously, making every scene feel inviting, and sometimes purposely uncomfortable. And when the few racing scenes that are in the movie come, look out. They’re slick, sleek, and shiny and they will pin you to your seat. Intensity isn’t a word for it. It’s just remarkable. The script, by Peter Morgan, knows what to provide in bringing this real life story to the screen and the characters are about as fleshed out as one would hope for this type of drama. The first half of the film, while not unentertaining by any means, is a bit slow and sometimes creeps into boring territory, and that is one of the main problems I had with Rush, but other than that, I really liked Rush.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Ron Howard has proven with Rush that a movie about racing doesn’t have to have nothing but racing. He takes a relatively small budget and uses it to his advantage, finely crafting a character drama that ranks among the best racing movies ever made. It’s a strange thing. The first half is a bit slow, sometimes boring, but once the halfway point arrives, Howard, along with the remarkable two leads, puts the pedal to the metal and doesn’t let up. (B+)