Rush, the latest effort from actor-turned-director Ron Howard, does indeed offer a lot of intense, high-speed imagery in the form of numerous breakneck Formula 1 races. But more important than that is that it offers a good story to back things up. Based on real events, with good writing, acting, and overall delivery, this is a solid biopic, and one that should definitely be checked out by anyone interested in the concept.
Taking place from the early to mid-70s, the story isn't solely about one man. despite Chris Hemsworth, best known as Thor, having his face take up the whole poster. Much like 2011's Warrior, the film switches its focus back and forth between two superstar rival racers, the British James Hunt (Hemsworth) and the Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).
Starting with their humble beginnings and focusing on their respective rises to fame, personal hardships, and personalities, the film does a very good job of keeping an even balance between the two stories - at least until the end, where I did feel the focus shifted heavily to Lauda. I can't fault the film for this, though, as certain events in the last act make it necessary to put the spotlight on him for a bit.
Though both men are driven for fame and a bit egotistical as a result, both the script and the performances help to differentiate themselves from each other. Hunt is much more of a stereotypical, jock-like celebrity, who drinks, womanizes, lives in excess, and takes full advantage of his fame. Lauda, on the other hand, is a bit more reserved, stuffy, and uptight.
In numerous scenes, as hostility develops between the two, they each point out the other's shortcomings that come with their respective lifestyles. Hunt experiences a more turbulent and publicized life with his own wife (Olivia Wilde), while Lauda lives a more subdued and successful relationship with his own (Alexandra Maria Lara). The contrast is interesting, but even more so is the rivalry, which comes to a head when something tragic occurs in the later parts of the racing season. An event in the later section of the film between Hunt and a reporter, while not vital to the plot, is successfully able to show us that Hunt develops a sense of respect for his rival after a major setback.
The actual races are shot very well, with a mixture of traditional, broadcast-like shots from cameramen on the side as well as first-person and close shots from the racer's perspectives. Later races are downright harrowing, especially the last one. The fact that I don't know much about F1 history helped ratchet up the suspense a lot, as I often had no idea what to expect by the end of each major race.
If I have any real complaints, it would be that the first 20 or so minutes of the film, which focus primarily on Hunt, felt a bit like a standard sports film in terms of its narrative and flow. When Lauda fully enters the picture, though, things get more interesting for both characters, and I got mucuh more invested.
Rush will satisfy both those who have a fondness for racing and the stories of those behind the wheel as well as those who simply want a well-written and well-told story. With good direction from Howard and engaging acting from both leads, this gets a very good recommendation, and if you're hankering for a good drama, this is one of the safer bets out there at the moment.