Oct 2, 2013

An outstanding racing, action, biography film.


Grade: A-

Director: Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)

Screenplay: Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Daniel Bruhl (Winning Streak)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2:03

by John DeSando

“The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It's a wonderful way to live. It's the only way to drive.” James Hunt

Although in the mid 1970’s, I was about to begin a satisfying and successful phase of my academic career, I had never heard of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two world champions of formula one racing. Ron Howard’s action biography of the racers and their milieu changes my ignorance in two invigorating hours called, appropriately, Rush, starring respectively Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl.

Rush is one of the best racing movies of all time and rewards my cinematic demands as few biographies have ever done. Beyond the thrilling cinematography that couples the passions of the players with the sound of the engines and colors of the racing cars, director Howard and writer Peter Morgan give their two principals witty lines and restrained emotional confrontations, much as we would expect in real life with small poetic flourishes: “The wind you can feel is me breathing down your neck. Next time, I’ll have you.” Hunt to Lauda; “Happiness is the enemy.” Lauda to his wife.

A leitmotif about the value of having enemies (“Trust me: watching you win those races, while I was fighting for my life, you were equally responsible for getting me back in the car.” Lauda to Hunt) is expertly woven into the visceral racing story. That theme binds the characters into an unsentimental Apollonian-Dionysian competition that is more graceful than bitter. Even the inevitable clashes with lovers and wives who suffer the life-threatening races are not in the least obtrusive or annoying. In other words, Howard doesn’t weigh his film down with clichés, and he doesn’twaste time with love interests or the usual significant-other obsessions about the dangers.

What Howard does do is to give us a sense of the excitement and danger of arguably the world’s most dangerous sport. And then he peppers that action with biography that makes sense but doesn’t overshadow the main action.

Rush feel like a summer blockbuster that was rerouted to the fall because it turned out to be more than spectacle. Some of the excitement of the drivers is reserved for the audience:

“The risk of death turns people on.” James Hunt.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at