Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rush (2013) drives home brains and brawns

Rush movie review
Photo Credit: Rush
Growing up with my cousin who liked cars and trucks,  preconceived notions about racing as an adult have become limited: cars looping around in a track a few times. NASCAR and the famous Daytona 500 never held much interest for me in terms of watching it on television or seeking out news. As far as cinema 'knowledge' about the sports genre was concerned, I hadn't had very much experience - never seen the animated Cars by Pixar, Days of Thunder starring Tom Cruise, nor any other motion picture. To be honest, I never thought I'd come across a film about racing that constructed the sport and its drivers in an interesting way that non-sports people like me could understand and enjoy.

Then, came Rush. Centered around the 1970s feud between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda, (Daniel Bruhl), the film dives into the world of racing and the catastrophic dangers its drivers takes.

Tall, blond and beautiful, James Hunt is the epitome of a young English hero with the world at his feet. His family had hopes for Hunt to become a doctor, but his combative personality against their strict upbringing ushered a natural love for racing. In an act of rebellion, he capitalizes on adrenaline: racing, sleeping around, drinking and drugs. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Niki Lauda. An Austrian native, he too could settle for working for his father, however, he defies his dad's disapproval to pursue his passion for racing. His act of rebellion is to show his family that he can do everything on his own. Often his looks are compared to that of a rat; brown musty hair, an overbite, and small beady eyes. Where he doesn't succeed in the looks department, he makes up for with his cunning ambition.

The passion to be behind the wheel leads both characters to be kings of the road. Their personality differences and work ethics - brawns versus brain - drives their feud. Neither Hunt nor Lauda are strictly portrayed as the protagonist nor antagonist; each is shown with equal virtues and downsides. For Hunt, it's his constant fast-lifestyle of partying and women. On the one side, he appears charismatic, however, his night-to-night dalliances threaten his natural talent. For Lauda, it's his direct attitude, which doesn't leave him with many friends but keeps his mental well-being clean to race without any inhibitions. Both characters are driven by their love for being the best in the world, and they have different mindsets for dealing with obstacles on and off the track.

Excluding his super-stardom brought on by the Avengers series, Chris Hemsworth manages to star as Hunt as a chameleon. He's a recognized movie star first by his handsome good looks, and then by his acting ability, which is becoming increasingly underrated. Daniel Bruhl is perhaps the star of the film managing to steal every scene against his co-star and others who star as his managers and wife. Lauda - for me - due to his Germanic upbringing and straightforward personality could've easily been a caricature displayed as a robot unemotional control freak. Bruhl manages to show and passion in multiple emotional layers that truly makes him the focus of the film's finale.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspects about Rush is how the racing sequences are edited. As a movie goer who enjoys seeing the action rather than cuts around characters in combat, I do not particularly like it when scenes are spliced up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Rush's cinematography gives an equal balance of seeing the cars race zoom around the track as a sideline observer and on the road as a driver. At high speeds, through hills, and pass finish lines, you really feel like you are alongside Hunt and Lauda as they push their automobiles to maximum speeds.

Director Ron Howard does a spectacular job bringing this vintage feud to life. The storyline is engaging and swift as we watch Hunt and Lauda battle around the world against each other and their own inner demons. The accolades for this film was seriously lacking in the 2014 Oscar race; surely, it could've earned a few with Direction, Best Picture or Best Supporting Actor for Buhl. Rush is a perfect balance showcasing racing in all of its dangerous and spectacle showmanship as well as the men behind the scenes who truly risk their lives to cross the finish line.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Rush? What did you think?

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