Two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard’s Rush is a biopic unlike any other. The opening sequence gives you a sense of the adrenaline-packed experience that’s about to follow. This is a film that’s aptly titled and very much lives up to it. It focuses on the widely known rivalry between two accomplished Formula One drivers, Niki Lauda and James Hunt. At the beginning of the film, Niki tells us that the kind of people who go into this profession are rebels and lunatics; people who are desperate to make a mark and are prepared to die for it. Lauda and Hunt perfectly belong to this category. Both are extremely ambitious and determined individuals who are relentless in their pursuit to get their names into the front pages of newspapers (and history books for that matter).
It’s at a Formula Three race where their rivalry really began. It was very well-known that Hunt was a playboy and an adrenaline junkie. He had a penchant for beautiful women and fast cars. He lived every day as if it was his last. These facts are established very early on in the film. Lauda on the other hand is the complete opposite. Getting into the racing business was not so easy for him. His father was a businessman and did not approve of his decision to become a race car driver. To him, it was a profession best suited for playboys and dilettantes. It suddenly strikes us that they share at least some similarities after all. Hunt’s parents were not that different either. They wanted him to be a doctor but he chose racing instead and felt that racing was the only thing he was good at. Niki felt the same way. Lauda and Hunt go through dozens of confrontations that would further exacerbate their rivalry. But the depiction of their final meeting in the film tugged at my heartstrings.
Even though the writers have taken some liberty with the story, there are some parts in the film that almost blurs the line between documentary and cinema. The major credit for that goes to the screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Damned United, Frost Vs Nixon) and the fabulous cast. The scene-stealer here is, undoubtedly, Daniel Brul. It’s Bruhl’s commanding performance that keeps us enthralled for a major part of the film. His portrayal of Lauda is simply magnetic and overshadows that of Chris Helmsworth’s. And for once, Helmsworth has put in an impressive performance. (No, I’m not a fan of Thor). With this film, he proved that he is not just a pretty face and is capable of playing a substantial role provided there is a rock solid script.
This is also a racing movie for people who don’t like racing. Ron Howard’s direction is as supercharged as one of these race cars. Rush is like a breath of fresh air in this age of superhero movies and puerile comedies. It’s that rare biopic that is both heartwarming and immensely entertaining. Hans Zimmer’s stirring background score adds an extra layer of intensity to the story, especially the racing sequences. And cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle once again puts his innovative ideas to good use. It’s one of the best sports movies ever made. My second favorite after Raging Bull. An exhilarating ride from start to finish. (I wrote this review while listening to Zimmer’s score from the film.)