Rush, which chronicles the true story of a historic rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers in the 1970s, is the best film I have seen so far this year. Before you jump to conclusions, let me say I am not the type of guy who has a testosterone-fueled infatuation with fast cars. In fact, I am usually quite skeptical of any sports movie, as they are often so terribly cliché that the effort required to watch them should constitute a sport within itself. Rush easily avoids this stereotype, and emerges as what I deem to be one of the top ten sports movies of all time.
Director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) masterfully introduces us to the relatively unknown world of Formula 1 racing, which, unlike NASCAR and INDYCAR, has broad international appeal. Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) finally demonstrates he belongs in Hollywood, finding his stride as the hard-partying, womanizing British racer James Hunt. Daniel Brühl (a virtual unknown) effectively portrays Hunt’s antithesis, the precise, uptight Austrian racer Niki Lauda.
Rush has an intriguing plot that does an excellent job of analyzing Formula 1 racing from both a macro and micro perspective. The audience is able to learn about the broader historical context of the sport as well as its complex business side (Ferrari vs. McLaren is a prominent theme in the film). Moreover, we learn about the competitive and individualistic nature of the drivers themselves, who flirt with death on a routine basis. By providing an array of viewpoints and angles from which to view the sport, Howard is able to give the film a refreshing sense of balance.
At the heart of the film is the snarky, yet undeniably intense rivalry between Hunt and Lauda. However, over the course of the movie we learn that the rivalry is not fueled so much from personal hatred, but rather a mutual desire to prove one’s self-worth. Hunt seeks to demonstrate he is capable of greatness beyond just his good looks and cunning personality. Likewise, Lauda is driven by a desire to show his family and others that he belongs on the Formula 1 circuit despite his unorthodox persona.
In many ways Rush is not a sports movie, but rather an exploration into the minds of two deeply conflicted men. Moreover, the film does a wonderful job humanizing two internationally renowned athletes, showing the audience that no one is impervious to the struggle for self-identity. Ultimately, Hunt and Lauda retain a mutual respect and help each other realize that by embracing their faults they can achieve a healthy balance between success and happiness.
Rush is a sleek, stylish film with breathtaking race scenes and a natural, harmonious flow that is aesthetically pleasing. While it very well might be overlooked at the Academy Awards, Rush is an innovative movie that deserves your attention for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, this film achieves the rare feat of transcending the realm of sports and tapping into the lives of everyday individuals.