After earlier release dates in the UK and the United States, I felt like the last person in the world to see Rush, but I did finally see it last Friday (opening day in Canada). Boy, was it worth the wait.
When I saw the first trailers, I was as excited as everybody else. But over the past couple months, as reviews trickled out, I downgraded my expectations. I heard that the on-track action was not realistic enough, the dialogue was awkward, and the narration was excessive. I am happy to report that none of these turned on to be the case.
If you want to see what grand prix racing was like in the 1970s, find a documentary about the period or watch some old race videos. If you want to feel what grand prix racing was like in the 1970s, watch Rush. This film has everything that is missing from modern F1: a sense of danger; immediacy and closeness to the action; and (albeit fictional) behind-the-scenes access.
One of my favourite parts of every race weekend is the two or three minutes the drivers are standing in the green room chatting while they wait for the podium ceremony to commence. This is about the only time anyone without a paddock pass will hear F1 drivers speaking casually amongst peers. Rush brings us backstage and Chris Hemsworth (James Hunt) and Daniel Brühl (Niki Lauda) are so convincing in their portrayals that the viewer almost forgets they are not watching the real Hunt and Lauda.
Although the focus of the film is the relationship and rivalry between two racing drivers, the storyline is usually moved along off the track. However, there is still a substantial amount of racing action, and all of it is fantastic! There are few things more annoying than a sports movie with unrealistic game action (think Mystery, Alaska or every American football movie ever made). The racing scenes in Rush suffer from no such flaws. The close-ups often make you feel as though you are behind the wheel of the car and there is no gratuitous interaction between the drivers on the track (like in Seabiscuit, where the jockeys carry on full conversations during the races). For the wider shots, the only clue you have that you are not watching actual footage from the 1970s is that HD cameras did not exist at the time.
Image copyright: Universal Pictures, via Yahoo! movie stills
The rivalry between Hunt and Lauda is overstated, and their friendship is downplayed, but it makes sense for the film. Both men’s qualities and flaws are on full display, and both of them turn out to be likeable for different reasons. Peter Morgan‘s script gives equal treatment to both drivers and, as mentioned, the dialogue seems natural, even when you know the characters are over-explaining something just for the benefit of non-racing fans watching the film.
Rush is not just a great racing film; it is a great film, period. It is two hours in length, but it never lags. Even already knowing the outcome of the 1976 Formula One season, you will still be entertained and on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you do, soon.
One final note: for anyone trying to convince a non-race fan to see Rush, you can tell them that Mrs. Parade Lap, who I don’t think has ever watched a full race on TV (she did attend one Canadian Grand Prix), quite enjoyed herself at the film. A love of F1 is not a prerequisite for appreciating Rush.