The story of bitter Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda is one that may only be intimately familiar to devout racing fans, but with the arrival of “Rush” on Sept. 27, their tale is destined to be on the lips of film fans everywhere. “Rush” finds director Ron Howard at the top of his powers, and the flawed motorheads at the center of his film give the project enough drama and intrigue to drive it straight into the heart of the Oscar race.
To dismiss “Rush” as a racing movie is to do a disservice to what is ultimately a character study of what drives competitors like James Hunt and Niki Lauda to risk paying the ultimate price for a shot at glory. As James Hunt, Chris Hemsworth is all smoldering intensity, but his fiery nature is at once his greatest strength and weakness. His impulsive and reckless nature gives him an edge on the track, but causes more than a few speed bumps in life, and doesn’t always earn him the checkered flag. Daniel Bruhl meanwhile gives a tour de force performance as the serious, risk-assessing Niki Lauda, The Iceman to Hunt’s Maverick. Seriously, these fellas may have been a source of inspiration for Ricky Bobby and Jean Gerard, but you know, a loose source.
The film follows their rivalry from loathe at first sight in the Formula One equivalent of the minor leagues up through their showdowns for world championships and beyond. Hunt and Lauda are the ultimate frenemies, driving one another to greater heights and fevered desperation, and the escalation is fascinating to watch unfold. While racing fans might have more appreciation for the finer points of the sport that are on display, the film as a whole offers up more than enough entertainment for those of us who know nothing of the sport, in fact, it may even inspire some new fans.
Buckle-up for “Rush” and go along for a supremely entertaining ride that comes with all the trappings of Oscar prestige.