Ron Howard’s latest film, ‘Rush,’ is a slick, fast-paced drama that turns more on action and direction than on character but gathers speed during its final laps.
‘Rush’ details the incredulous, but real-life, 1970s Formula 1 racing battle between intense rivals that, surprisingly, has never made it to a big-budget feature status before now. Chris Hemsworth (‘Thor’ and ‘The Avengers’) plays British driver James Hunt, a handsome, charismatic, stereotypical ladies’ man with a hedonistic bent. And, Daniel Brühl (‘Inglourious Basterds’) is his racing foe, Niki Lauda, an engineering/science-focused, socially excluded Austrian, who will give up almost all versions of happiness to solely focus on winning.
The two amazingly skilled drivers move through the ranks of low-level racing to Formula 1. Hunt, throughout, remains smitten by the pursuit of pleasure, but Lauda appears fueled solely by his own personal mix of pain and anxious perfection. And, each man repeatedly attempts to meet his antithetical self tit-for-tat in numerous racing wins.
‘Rush’s’ yellow-filtered, 1970’s Instagram-look instantly transports viewers to the four-decades-old European racing battle. Howard, further, enhances the experience by spending much of the movie getting viewers ‘up close and personal’ with the mega-speed machines and the experience of driving. His skilled approach makes the film’s heart-pounding races all the more viscerally understandable -- even by non-racing fans. The sound design is also superb (Howard made sure the film even had the right transmission and gear box sounds). This meticulous sound (where McLaren recordings are only used when looking at a McLaren and not a Ferrari) often leaves one feeling aurally sucked into the deep-bellied roars of the engine and the high-pitched squeals of tires on the track. And, Howard, even ups the intensity of the virtual racing experience by placing the camera in close-up, unexpected places (in a helmet, inside a wheel), getting the viewer an almost better-than-3D look at the intimacies of high-level speed competition.
Often, though, what is missing in this intense racing film is the exposition of character. The audience readily understands that these are two men are, basically, cut from the same cloth, seeking different ends to the same Formula 1 championship, and sees that same dynamic play out time-after-time during the first half of the film. Supporting characters, like Hunt’s wife, Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), float in and out of the storyline but seem to have limited purpose in moving the narrative further along. Only after tragedy strikes in the latter half of the movie, do the leads of the story finally become more than perfunctory players in the pursuit of speed. The tragedy brings a boost of energy to ‘Rush’s’ characterization and storyline, finally melding the fantastic visual and auditory experience with emotional meaning. ‘Rush’ is given 4- of 5 (‘recommended’) stars.
Rush is rated R by the MPAA for ‘sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.’
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