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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

“Rush” pits rival racers in a cinematically splendid film

Published: October 4, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

The movie “Rush” portrays a historic battle between two Formula 1 drivers at the height of their powers—James Hunt and Niki Lauda. In the 1970s the two raced for McLaren and Ferrari respectively, but in vastly differing styles. Hunt was the definition of a party boy, who spent his time looking for the thrill of life, his reason for racing. He spent his time with wine, women and drugs, while Lauda focused solely on racing. Based on a true story, “Rush” brought these historic characters to life.

The two work their way up from the lowest division of racing, consistently winning races and slowly but steadily building a great rivalry. Chris Hemingworth’s portrayal of Hunt fits his image perfectly—known for his devil-may-care attitude, Hunt started smoking at age 10, and would consistently smoke, drink and have sex minutes before his races. During the 1970s, Formula 1 started to collect a larger and larger fanbase, and Hunt was celebrated for his playboy behavior and nonchalant attitude. Daniel Brühl plays Niki Lauda brilliantly, serious and calculating, never one to easily make friends or even want them. As he states in the movie, making friends gives one something to care about, which means “you lose the ability to take the risk.”

The movie is cinematically splendid, changing scenes with ease and bringing the viewer into the movie each time. Time lapses are very rarely mentioned; once in a while, the date of a race is shown to mark the passage of time.

Other characters, although important and influential in the actual history, are given a short shift, briefly mentioned and sometimes not even named, even though they reappear. Although it attempts to follow the lives of both Hunt and Lauda, the movie does a far better job of characterizing the more serious of the two drivers. Lauda’s story line is packed with emotion, giving the audience a well-rounded sense of the character. Viewers can see his battle with his family, with his home life and within himself. From a wealthy family, Lauda did not win his father’s approval when admitting his desire to become an F1 driver. Lauda had to take a loan out by himself to buy his way into a team and from then on, continued to adapt his car to be the fastest it could be. Throughout the movie, the viewers receive a sense of complete disregard for everything but the end goal from Lauda. He didn’t care how anyone responded to him, just that he ultimately became the best. As the movie continues, the audience is given insights into Lauda’s love life, marriage and especially the sense of trauma and despair after his infamous crash.

Lauda spent over a minute inside a searing inferno that reached well over 800 degrees. The entire stadium (and movie audience) hushed as fire marshals and other drivers attempted to help their fellow driver out of the flames. He was finally withdrawn after suffering severe burns to his face, body and lungs. Lauda lost an ear, received terrible scarring to his head and lungs and had to have his lungs vacuumed to empty out all the ash that had fallen into them. When he returns to the track, just six weeks after his terrible accident, in severe pain with bandages across his body, he is given a standing ovation as he finishes fourth. He and Hunt have a quick discussion, where Hunt apologizes for forcing the other to go through with the race in which Lauda was injured, as it was raining and Lauda had discussed boycotting it. Lauda stares him in the face and levelly replies, “It was because of you that I got back on the track.”

This moment is one of the only times the audience sees another facet of Hunt’s character. Very rarely do we see an input into his social life; His marriage to model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) is dismissed as an action made to give himself some amount of legitimacy in the eyes of the officiating board and the F1 world. Hemingsworth, however, gives great life to the role, living the splendor in a most lifelike fashion. The real Hunt was confirmed to have slept with over 3,000 women, with estimates reaching a total of 5,000. Hemingworth’s charisma on screen, different from his far less serious role as Thor, carries the character, making him exceptionally likeable despite the fact that screenwriters gave him no true depth.

The movie demonstrates a great understanding and compassion between the two rivals and the actors themselves. While they show almost no emotion for anyone else, their hidden respect for the other is highlighted just as much as their fierce rivalry and dislike, as each attempts to persuade the other that his way was the best.

From start to finish, the movie pulls the audience in, complete with stunning scene changes, amazing cinematic shots, great casting and fantastic interpersonal dialogue, which both main actors pull off with perfect timing. This is one of the best movies to come out so this year.