Film Review: Rush - the ultimate road movie pits playboy James Hunt against ruthless genius Nikki Lauda

4.00

The rivalry between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda thrills and fascinates

Leicester Square was looking like Silverstone on Monday night as leading figures from the world of Formula One gathered for the world premiere of Ron Howard’s Rush. The film, scripted by Peter Morgan, tells the extraordinary story of the 1976 F1 season when British driver James Hunt was pitted against Nikki Lauda for the world championship.

True to its title, Rush makes rousing viewing, even if the adrenalin thrill of the race sequences themselves can’t always disguise the cliché-ridden aspects of Morgan’s screenplay.

Hunt (played with tremendous brio by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth) is a reckless, womanising playboy of a driver. Early in the film, he is part of a team run by Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay), a flamboyant aristocrat who decides to take a crack at Formula One almost on a whim.

By complete contrast, Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), the calculating Austrian whose buck teeth earn him the nickname of “the rat”, plots his entry into F1 with utter ruthlessness.

The filmmakers take some liberties with the true story of the Hunt/Lauda rivalry, depicting an early, non-F1 race between the two drivers in which Hunt’s typically gung-ho approach behind the wheel enables him to win but only after he has taken potentially lethal risks.

Rush is set in a period when death is an occupational hazard. This adds to the glamour of the sport. The golden-haired Hunt who vomits before each race but otherwise seems blithely unconcerned about the dangers he is facing, is the perfect driver for such an era. Everything about his career is haphazard. For example, he is only given a chance to race in a competitive team, McLaren, because no other top drivers are available.

Lauda’s genius, by contrast, is in setting up cars to achieve maximum performance.

The irony is that Lauda is the one who has the near-fatal accident, swerving off the track in his Ferrari early in the German Grand Prix after taking a highly uncharacteristic risk.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (best known for his work on low-budget Danish Dogme movies) shoots the races in exhilarating fashion, always giving us the sense that we’re at the heart of the action.

Less successful are the scenes exploring the drivers’ private lives. Hunt’s marriage to Suzy Miller ends when she leaves him for movie star Richard Burton. The resolutely unromantic Lauda marries Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara), who can’t believe initially that such a reticent man could really be a driver.

At times, the film veers into buddy movie territory. The drivers, for all their rivalry and seeming enmity, are utterly fascinated by one another. There is also an attempt to cast Hunt and Lauda as mythic archetypes. All this is only fitfully successful. It’s out on the track itself that Rush really picks up speed and emotional urgency.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones