Note: This was the first unfinished draft on my website. In light of Niki Lauda’s passing this week, I thought I’d honor him by finishing it.
What is winning? The concept means different things to different people. To Niki Lauda and James Hunt winning is a split interpretation about being alive. Is it enough to simply survive, being the best you can be or should you go further and push yourself to the edge to feel alive?
Nikki Lauda said in an interview the key to racing is being both alive and present. In this film, Ron Howard following his Best Picture nominated Frost/Nixon (again with a great Peter Morgan screenplay) gives us another team of rivals, brought to life by the Oscar-worthy performances of Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth. Upon the closing credits I was stunned by how much each actor looks exactly like their real life counterparts and give wonderful performances to boot. Olivia Wilde has a nice turn as Suzy Hunt, and there’s a fun early scene with Natalie Dormer.
The project was initially handed to Paul Greengrass who walked away after budget issues and went on to Captain Phillips. That film went on immediately to become more critically and commercially acclaimed, a success this film deserved. The film was written uncomissioned and unsolicited, mined for personal drama without even a racing sequence in mind. What Ron Howard and Co. have created on a $38 Million budget is astounding. Every department from the costumes, to the acting to the production design, to Hans Zimmer’s score. They got everything out of it and more. The tense rain-soaked race track finale is among the finest racing sequences I have ever seen.
I remember going to see this movie on a rain soaked afternoon in Ottawa, during my rough second year of University. I needed to cool off from a feud I was having with my landlord from hell. Sandwiched between an awesome theatre run of other great movies The Spectacular Now, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, and Gravity, this movie nicely provided two hours of pure escapism to forget my life’s problems and keep me from saying something I might regret. It could have been the same for these two Formula One drivers, each coming from families who did not approve of their racing. What I like most about this film is how equally it treats the two sportsmen. Through their rivalry they develop a complex relationship and while showcasing but not glorifying their own vices. Niki Lauda is an anti-social heel, James Hunt a relentless party-animal. Rush finds enough common ground without simplifying the men that provides more than enough fuel to move the film past the finish line. It’s one of Ron Howard’s best films.