Ron Howard’s new movie, Rush, expands to over 2000 theaters this weekend, and I happened to catch a sneak peek last week complete with an actors, writer, and producers Q&A following the screening. I was not familiar with the story, nor had I read up on the events before seeing the film, so I was going in blind, and I’m glad I did.
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruehl are fantastic – especially Bruehl. This will no doubt catapult him into more Hollywood roles. His performance as Niki Lauda may even find him in Oscar contention, but the season is young, and there are so many more movies in the running. He grew up in Germany knowing all about Lauda (who is Austrian), unlike the Australian Hemsworth who had no idea of the history between Lauda and his British character, James Hunt, before taking on the role.
In fact, screenwriter Peter Morgan, who specializes in odd relationship stories (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), never expected his story of the 1970s Formula One racers to ever see the big screen, writing it as a spec for his own personal triumph. He never imagined seeing it on the big screen in such glory. If Howard had not shown interest, he suspected a British production would have been lots of race car sounds with characters commenting on the offscreen track happenings.
Under the direction of Howard, this film instead recreates long lost tracks and racers for the 1976 Formula One season championship battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda (Howard color corrected the film to look and feel like the ’70s as well). Avid race enthusiasts or those familiar with the sport may remember another name from this era, Mario Andretti, who gave the boys a run for their money a time or two that year. Howard will more than likely succeed in creating a new following of Formula One fans from this feature. The cars are the secondary characters – a combination of replicas and originals were used. The originals were driven solely by their owners to protect their investments, now valued between $2-$3 million per car. They are very pretty to watch.
The women, including leads Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara, are tertiary characters – much of their roles left on the cutting room floor in order to maybe save time and keep the focus on the Hunt/Lauda rivalry. For example, I could swear that’s Felicity Jones in those two random scenes hinting at a possible short-term love interest for the sex-crazed Hunt that never came to screen. Seriously not a spoiler alert!
The mutual respect and antagonistic camaraderie between Hunt and Lauda carry Rush. The physics and politics behind Formula One racers are enlightening to the novice viewer and more than likely create nostalgia for fans who lived and/or grew up hearing the stories behind this 1976 championship season. Both men are legendary in their field. I will not say this is Howard’s best, but it is a solid film – well worth a viewing for the fantastic performances and plenty of zoom zoom.