Thursday, October 3, 2013

RUSH (2013)

Rated:  R

Stars: Daniel Bruhl,  Chris Hemsworth,  Alexandra Maria Lara,  Olivia Wilde

Director: Ron Howard

Genre: Action-Adventure/ Drama

There is a reason why those new car commercials on TV have some stunt driver careening wildly around hairpin curves, and turning doughnuts in a cloud of dust.  It speaks to the inner race car driver (or maniac) in most of us. That's why you don't have to be a racing fan to get off on Rush,  Ron Howard's new film based upon the true story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt--rival drivers at the top of their game on the Formula One racing circuit back in the seventies.There is something primitively sexual about the deafening roar of an engine that will propel you around the track at 170 mph.  That's why race drivers are surrounded by beautiful women. (Danica Patrick, not sure.)  

Hunt and Lauda were polar opposites. Englishman Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) was a pretty boy. A wild party-goer and a womanizer who hacked his guts up at the track before each race--presumably out of nervousness, or maybe it was just carried over from the night before. (And in the name of realism, we get to witness it multiple times.) Lauda, (Daniel Bruhl) an Austrian, was the cold, analytical type  who knew how to tune his cars to make them go just a little faster than the competition. He tried to calculate the odds of getting killed in any given race in terms of a percentage figure.  

With those engines roaring in your ears, jump-cut editing that matches the frenetic pace of the track, and an exhilarating music score from Academy Award (R) winner Hans Zimmer, Rush puts you in the driver's seat to experience all the heart-pounding, bang-up action--and there is plenty of it-- of the 1976 duel between Hunt and Lauda for the Formula One world championship. 

Of course, there's more to the film than that. It's a poignant tale of two rivals who drive each other to be the best that they can be, and in that sense--much like the legendary thoroughbreds Affirmed and Alydar--they feed off of each other 

I did a little research and found that the film sticks pretty close to the facts, except for portraying these guys as snarky adversaries with nary a kind word to utter to one another, at least in the beginning. In truth, Hunt and Lauda were friends. 

I'm going to declare Rush as the Rocky of racing films--in future years I think it will be regarded as such. And in a supporting role, Lauda's wife, Marlene, (Alexandra Maria Lara) makes a fine Adrian, as she gazes upon her man putting his life on the line, 
( forty-nine drivers have perished driving a Formula 1 car) outwardly composed, but her eyes reveal what her body language tries to conceal.

For some, the closer they come to death, the more alive they feel. That would be the only way to explain why these hyped-up adrenalin junkies keep tempting fate the way they do.  Lucky for you, all you need do is survive the city traffic and get to a theater to experience one danged realistic rush of a movie.

As Tim and I were leaving the movie theater, I got to thinking about other car racing movies and couldn't come up with a single one. Whereas horse racing flicks have always been a lucrative staple in the film business. (Or should I say 'stable'?) I decided to type in 'car racing movies' in my search window and, believe it or not, Netflix supplied a bunch of 'em: Dust To Glory, On Any Sunday, Love The Beast, Once Upon A Wheel, Yank Tanks, Octane, to name a few.
More amazing is the fact that I am not familiar with any of these gems. The only other movie I can think of that deals with car-racing--motorcycle racing, actually--was a brilliant movie starring Anthony Hopkins. Like RUSH, it was based on a real person, New Zealander Burt Monro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle that helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. The name of the movie was The World's Fastest Indian and, like the two rivals in RUSH, the main character was obsessed with speed and winning. 
Although Formula One racing is a subject I know nothing about, I was still hooked on the movie because of these two diametrically different racers. Director Ron Howard made me feel like I, too, was crammed inside one of those pricey machines with Hunt or Lauda. Of course, Howard also took some liberties with reality when he prolonged the tire-changing scenes for dramatic purposes. True racing aficionados would have taken exception to this. 
Despite his brilliance, Daniel Bruhl seemed unfamiliar to me (although he did have a fairly decent part in Inglorious Basterds). I was blown away by how much the actor resembled the real life Niki Lauda pictured at the end of the film.

Grade: B+