- Vishaal Desai
Directed by - Ron Howard
Written by - Peter Morgan
The history of Formula 1 racing has been filled with dramatic stories and rivalries that could easily adapt themselves to the grandiosity of cinema – Prost vs. Senna, Mansell vs. Piquet, Schumacher vs. Hill. But if there was ever one entire Formula 1 season that had all the drama that could be expected from a film - a bitter rivalry, a near death, a miraculous recovery and the triumph of an underdog - it would be the 1976 Formula 1 season; the Championship that boiled down to one story - Niki Lauda vs. James Hunt. And that is the focus of Ron Howard’s Rush - an emotionally resonating, pulse pounding film that focuses most of it’s energies on impeccable character development without taking anything away from the visually thrilling, death defying spectacle of Grand Prix racing in the 70’s.
The film begins by showing us a little bit of the history, behind the Lauda – Hunt rivalry from their days in Formula 3 and their respective albeit contrasting rise to the brutal world of Formula 1. Hunt and Lauda themselves are two contrasting personalities, with Hunt an effervescent playboy, given to the joys of alcohol, drugs and sex and an addiction to the thrill of living life on the limit. Lauda on the other hand is methodical, efficient and ruthless. And this is exactly where the film shines the brightest, in portraying these two colorful characters with flawless accuracy.
Peter Morgan’s screenplay is not without its flaws and there are liberties taken with certain events for the sake of dramatization. But, the heart of the story is the rivalry and that is where Morgan’s brilliance shines through, with protagonists that are equal parts compelling and frustrating to watch.
While the character of James Hunt isn’t really given too much room for development, Chris Hemsworth adopts his essence with every bit of the style and swagger that made Hunt who he was. He is clearly comfortable in the role and is great at balancing the highs and lows of the Englishman’s volatile but larger-than-life personality.
However the real standout performance comes from Daniel Bruhl, who has impeccably captured the essence of Niki Lauda. Like the character he plays, Bruhl is methodical and effective, paying attention to the minutest of details, from Lauda’s speech and mannerisms to his gait. Although not the most amiable of characters, Bruhl’s Lauda is nevertheless easier to relate to, being the everyman - ordinary looking, unpopular – but though his complete lack of charisma keeps you at a distance, it is his candidness and unwavering focus towards his goal that makes him an attractive personality.
Technically, the film raises no complaints whatsoever, with Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematic wizardry putting us right in the driver’s seat. Some of the shot compositions are inspired, the racing sequences are incredibly realistic and editing by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill is snappy and dynamic. The sound design is impeccable with the incredible sound design team, putting together a sound track that completely encapsulates the audience into the film, giving us a complete experience of being in a formula 1 car driving at over 200kph.
Finally, the clarity of Ron Howard’s vision and his understanding of the sport gives us an almost accurate depiction of the 1970’s, not just the visual accuracy in terms of production design, but also the demeanor and attitudes of the people who built and raced cars at a time when safety was not a guarantee and death was always around the corner. The intensity of the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt that eventually grows to grudging respect amidst tragedy and triumph is laid out with a very clear understanding of the dynamics between those two characters.
Rush is most definitely a film that will be appreciated by fans of Formula 1 racing, particularly by those who are aware of the history of the 1976 championship. However one does not need to be an F1 fan to enjoy this truly exhilarating experience that puts us in the midst of one of the most emotionally turbulent formula 1 season to date.
VishRates - 4 / 5
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