It feels like forever since Ron Howard won best director for “A Beautiful Mind,” heck, it feels like forever since he’s been a director that gets people excited. There was a lot of hope “Rush” would show a rejuvenated Howard doing something new. While Howard definitely amped things up, “Rush” doesn’t shatter the mold and ends up in the middle of the pack.
Ron Howard and Peter Morgan team up once again to take on a story of a rivalry between two men. Their first, “Frost/Nixon,” was a more subtle chess match; “Rush’s” two leading men hold nothing back. Based on Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, “Rush” tracks how the two men battled each other with all they had, but also greatly respected one another.
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl bring these two men to the screen, and each gave some of the best work of their young careers. For Hemsworth, it’s nice to see him out of the Thor costume and proving to be bring more to a character than the hair and physique of an Adonis. Bruhl, though, is clearly steals the spotlight. He seethes intensity but also lets us in for the smaller moments. In contrast, Hemsworth Hunt is a little more one-dimension, but that’s a little more the character than his portrayal.
As mentioned, Howard definitely brought out a few new tricks. The racing sequences are well designed, briskly, but entertainingly, put together, and he found a subject matter that not only added to the type of stories he likes to tell but also enhanced it. It is clearly one of Howard’s best outings in a while.
That being said there are a number of things that keep it from being considered great. With two interesting lead characters that had such an intense rivalry, we don’t really get that much of it. Their first scene together is great, but after that they mostly meet in passing with a little jab here and there. There had to be more to this rivalry, and Howard and Morgan just didn’t show it.
Rather, they choose to spend the majority of the time off the track in Hunt and Lauda’s individual personal issues. While obviously important, they have such little actual drama. Hunt’s difficulty with his marriage is dealt with as such: relationship is good, relationship is troubled, relationship over, and not much detail is provided to any one of them. For Lauda, he is labeled an asshole, but when he meets his future wife they instantly get along and they get married and live happily together. On the other hand, story elements like Hunt not having a sponsor and not being able to compete and Lauda’s accident are not focused on enough.
“Rush” is a fine film, and pretty entertaining, but Howard hasn’t done anything groundbreaking, even compared to his recent track record. When it comes down to it, in a fall stacked to the brim with potential heavy-hitters, “Rush” is going to fall back to the middle of the pack. Good effort, but missing the things to take it to the next level.