Rush is the real life story of two men that despised and elevated each other in the 1970s. The men were drivers for Formula 1, both at the top of their game and from different backgrounds and distinctly different mindsets. The first one Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), an Austrian who came from a wealthy family of bankers and businessmen, found a love for the calculation and specifics of racing, but also saw the sport from a mental aspect first and foremost. Niki enjoyed barreling down the roads; he didn’t find a thrill in the danger of it. The opposite could be said of the Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), a reckless fellow whom lived for the crazed pleasure of the heightened reality of narrowly escaping death at a hundred-miles-per-hour. Where Niki liked the quiet life, James embraced the girls, drugs and celebrity that came with success. They were two opposite men brought together via a horrific incident.
It’s pretty simple; Rush is fantastic and probably the best mainstream movie to come along in 2013 thus far. It’s exciting, has memorable characters, a crackling cast and a script that even manages to use narration well. That it came from Ron Howard is both a shock and obvious. Amidst a bumbling decade-plus of Dan Brown adaptations, Dr. Seuss ruining and Oscar bait, Howard seemed to lose that touch of Hollywood slickness layered with stirring visuals and strong ensemble work. Rush is easily his best achievement since Apollo 13, comfortably mixing together an easy to digest story with a basic narrative (two guys who don’t like one another grow to do so), keeping the gloss but subtracting the schmaltz factor of, say, Cinderella Man.
With a script by Peter Morgan (The Queen), Howard is able to present some rough protagonists (one barely likable, one an arrogant mess) without much in the way of judgment. Morgan’s script makes no excuses for some of Niki and James’ behavior, but he does present these men as human. Both love racing and fret over it to a degree, yet neither fall into that cliché of athlete that screams at their wife over her failure to “get it.” Additionally, wow, are these performances good. Hemsworth shows himself to be more than muscle, a nice smile and game for a quip as James. However, this is Bruhl’s show and any and all awards that can be thrown his way are pretty much worthy.
Bruhl is a true marvel here as Niki Lauda, a complete construct. Many biopics or “true story” outings leave one yearning for a documentary or book to get some idea of the facts due to a weakness in the filmmaking. Bruhl makes one want to consume texts about the famous motorist so to imagine how the actor would bring those moments to life. Bruhl is condescending, though not cruel. He is arrogant about his abilities, yet stirs sympathy from the black and white way Niki views the world. The confidence he conveys in his ethos is unique in movies. Hopefully there will be oodles more of Bruhl and pictures like Rush in the near future.
Rush opens wide all across Seattle Friday.