Friday, 20 September 2013

Rush Review

F1 got the cinema treatment last with the Stallone vehicle Driven that was shambolic in excitement and realism in racing. Ron Howard has now taken upon himself the task of translating F1 to the big screen with Rush, a story about the feud between Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), their 1976 season and the crash at the Nürburgring that entirely changed Niki’s life. Translating the tempo of the car, the intensity of being in that open cockpit, is tricky as it can seem almost ordinary but thanks to Howard and the help of his DP, Anthony Dod Mantle, they’ve managed to give the audience the thrill and exhilaration of going over 100mph Rusharound corners – putting the danger back in the seat.

As was said before, it’s a biopic on the feud of Niki and James from F3 to F1 up until the 1976 season. Daniel Brühl is nothing short of excellent as Niki Lauda, giving a strong performance imitating the great committed F1 driver; even having the overbite that’s the result of many insults from Hunt. He plays the distant, calculated man with the precision that Niki had on and off the track. Playing it with the key blunt confidence that Niki possessed. James Hunt is then a larger than life character who is a cocky hedonist but has this charisma that is enigmatic, difficult to hate but hard to like too. Chris Hemsworth has put in the best performance of his career so far as Hunt, his vitriol stings, his lifestyle chaotic but ultimately superficial.

Off the track, the film is shot like a period indie film, recreating the ’70s without going overboard with the costumes and hairstyles – the fashion failings are still there. We get involved with the drivers and their obsessions, whether it’s their love of the adrenaline from racing wheel-to-wheel in the rain at speeds close to 170mph or their love for other extremities. Nothing is subtle in a film that’s about extremes and excesses, it’s all handled bluntly as if Niki Lauda wrote and directed. We get to see the intimacy behind the scenes that’s rarely as romantic as it feels to the drivers. Olivia Wilde pops up as Hunt’s model wife who has a perfect English accent but unfortunately gets too little screentime to explore their relationship.

Biopics and sport films do become formulaic, many complain about the use of commentary or shots of TV screens to release information but it’s the best way to present the information – if it was expositional dialogue instead then again people would complain but the information is necessary to advance the film. Familiarities of the sport genre rarely seem as invigorating as Rush which manages to encapsulate the drama of the feud and the danger of the racing. Structurally it’s the same territory as other biopics or feudal odd-couples, we start with an introduction to the characters and their intersecting stories until the 1976 season starts, but being deftly edited means it’s not tiring.

Ron Howard has managed to create an F1 film that will please fans of the sport and even thrill the naysayers of racing in a circle. Much of the craftmanship comes from how the drama unfolds in an intimate manner then expanding to exciting races. Putting the audience into the cockpit of a violently twitching car that’s inches away from others could even convert people to become a fan of the high-octane motorsport. Rush captures the magic and masculinity involved in getting your ego into a sponsored death trap, injecting the audience with the same rush as an F1 driver pushing everything to the limit. Cameras that are put in every nook and cranny along with excellent editing give Rush an identity. Characters don’t have to be nice early on to be interesting, it’s even hard to decide who to root for.