There's is no reason that high quality storytelling and electric cinematic entertainment have to be mutually exclusive. "Rush" fresh off of a successful festival and theatrical run most definitely falls into this category as this gripping racing epic of men and machine is easily one of the best films in the directorial career of Ron Howard.
Set against the glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing in the 1970s, "Rush" tells the true story of the great rivalry between handsome English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The story chronicles their distinctly different personal styles on and off the track, their loves and the astonishing 1976 season in which both drivers were willing to risk everything to become world champion in a sport with no margin for error.
In a return to form that hasn't been seen since his 2008 film "Frost/Nixon", director Ron Howard has crafted a thrilling bio picture about two men who were destined to win and be the best but held that goal in very different standards. Easily one of the best racing movies in recent memory, Howard puts us right into the pit and on to the track as the rumble of the cars echoes through the theatre creating a tension that the characters exude at every moment. At every turn it felt very authentic as Howard took great care to make it all feel as authentic as possible, from when they were racing Formula 3 all the way up to Formula 1 and left every event simply dripping with drama. While there were admittedly some mild pacing problems they are easily overshadowed as this script by Peter Morgan is equal parts spectacle an intensely personal character study that is spearheaded by two standout lead performances that just might be hearing their names called come awards season.
Daniel Bruhl stands out as the standoffish, brisk and boorish Niki Lauda. Bruhl manages to inhabit the skin of a man who is simply never comfortable where ever he is with an unimaginable chip on his shoulder to be the absolute best driver that he could. Bruhl is never afraid to walk that line between unlikable yet still oddly sympathetic and he does it masterfully. Chris Hemsworth plays the party boy James Hunt to a near tee, giving him the same insatiable drive to win as Bruhl's performance but with less of an edge of perfection to it. Both men are in desperate win, but each holds the stakes and the risks that they'd have to take to get there in a very different light. Both Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara turn up as James' and Nikis' respective spouses, but both ultimately remain in the background as Howard gives the keys of the film to Hemsworth and Bruhl and they both run with it as far as they can.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate with some stellar sound design that will put you right in the driver's seat of all the action. Special features on the Blu-Ray include a 6 part behind the scenes look at the making of "Rush", some deleted scenes and a 3 part expose at the real life story and rivelery that inspired the film.
When it comes down to it, there have been better Ron Howard films but while watching "Rush" you'll be genuinely hard pressed to remember them as this perfect balance between pure cinematic spectacle and intense character driven drama is a truly engrossing experience.
5 out of 5 stars.