Readers of today’s withering Gran Turismo review might get the impression that this critic is down on the sport of professional motor-racing; while I’m not a follower of the business of car-pointing, I do love a good sports movie, and Ron Howard’s Rush is one of the better examples of the genre, with Howard fashioning an excellent two-man biopic from a literate Peter Morgan script.
Morgan’s usual writer’s trick of balancing out of two competing characters (Frost Nixon, The Other Boylen Girl, The Queen) is well suited to capturing the sporting rivalry and one-upmanship that went on between between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two iconic figures brought vividly to life by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl. So for once, winning isn’t absolutely everything, but how you win, and how you treat others in the process, is very much up for analysis.
As well as a fairly impressive trackside evocation of the trials and dangers of the sport, Hunt’s playboy lifestyle is captured with evident affection; Hunt’s private life could probably make for a mini-series of its own, but most of that excess takes second place to a sympathetic portrait of losing out in love to an off-screen Richard Burton. Framed by a lion’s mane of golden hair, Hemsworth is exactly the spit of Hunt, but the film wouldn’t play if it wasn’t for a breakout performance from Bruhl as Lauda.
Not quite the dynamic figure that Hunt cuts, Lauda broods and frets, even despite the affections of Olivia Wilde, and overcomes incredible odds to maintain his alpha male battle with Hunt to the end. Few directors can marry character and plot as deftly as Howard can on his day, offering the same glossy brand of verisimilitude that he brought to Apollo 13, Backdraft and A Beautiful Mind. Rush didn’t quite get the wide mainstream audience it deserved on initial release, but anyone who digs car, sports or ogling handsome guys will find much to savour. And while a brief but rousing scene in which Hunt punches out a mouthy journalist for disrespecting Lauda may be fiction rather than fact, that moment chimes nicely with the overall reverent feel for depicting the Hunt/Lauda axis.