Hunt vs. Lauda in Formula 1 Battle Royale
Rivals. Peers. Equals. Competitors. Enemies: “A wise man learns more from his enemies than a fool learns from his friends.” So says the defining line in Academy-Award-Winning director Ron Howard’s latest film Rush, which depicts the real-life rivalry of 1970s Formula 1 racing legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) delivers on the promise of the film’s title by putting the audience in a full-throttled, no holds barred, fast-paced exercise in action movie filmmaking at its finest. But it’s not brainless popcorn filler either. It’s a superhero movie without capes, and a sports movie without the usual clichés. There are no heroes or villains here. No clear-cut favorite as both racers are simultaneously the underdog and aggressor. You may be surprised for who you find yourself rooting for by the end. Another title that may have been appropriate is “Relentless.” The stakes are high — life and death is on the line just as much as fame and glory.
British racer James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers), is a golden-boy rock star who craves the spotlight of fame. He’s a womanizer and a hard partier who gets by on his natural charisma and magnetic charm. But underneath the laidback exterior and camera-ready smile, Hunt is a ball of nerves who endlessly flicks his lighter and gets violently ill before each race. Austrian Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds), is Hunt’s exact opposite in almost every way. He’s cold, calculating, internalized and an intellectual who’s obnoxiously right about everything. Lauda doesn’t posses Hunt’s natural social gifts, which forces him to work harder than his British antagonist. But just as with Hunt, there’s more to Lauda than meets the eye. Both men are imperfect heroes — arrogant, selfish, and driven to succeed at any cost; however, they are also tragically noble in their own way. They are possessed by a certain form of rage that comes from a refusal to conform to society’s pressure of leading a “normal life,” and their immense dislike and begrudged respect for one another drives them both to their breaking points.
Howard’s direction and cinematography highlights the dangers and exhilaration of Formula 1 racing and puts the audience into the heat of the action on the tarmac. The music score of Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) thunders along and fills us with both excitement and dread. Rush is not a perfect film, but it’s exciting and inspiring on many levels. It’s a Hollywood movie that isn’t afraid to make its audience think, and has as many twists and turns as a race track. Hopefully it will also renew interest in the careers of Hunt and Lauda for non-racing aficionados. Rush gets 4 stars out of 5, and is the perfect way to start the holiday movie season.
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