Film Review: Rush Lives Up To Its Title

By John Beltz Snyder

September 30, 2013

Rush does a great job of breathing life back into a bit of racing history that definitely deserves a bit of renewed attention, even if it is just for the sake of entertaining a fresh audience. The story of the racing rivalry between the blunt and disciplined Niki Lauda and rebellious playboy James Hunt—culminating in the 1976 Formula 1 season—is one we feel lucky to get to experience on the big screen.
The film is a fun one, and not just to gearheads or motorsport historians, either. This movie goes far beyond the racing careers, and delves into the personal lives of two very interesting men. Sure, we may already know the story, and some viewers may even be intimately familiar with its details, but that doesn’t do anything to diminish the excellence of Rush. There is enough tragedy, comedy, and accessibility that make it a story almost anyone mature enough to see an R-rated film can enjoy.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film is that, even knowing what happens, it still manages to create and maintain palpable suspense throughout the story. The buildup to each race scene is focused in a way that puts the viewer in the moment in an emotional and intuitive way, so that we empathize deeply with the characters as the slot themselves behind their steering wheels. You fear for the drivers as they fear for themselves. Rush captures the jitters, the focus, and the weight of the moment in these scenes, transforming the movie-going experience into something just beyond “watching.”
The only thing that would have made the Rush experience more fulfilling would have been a deeper insight into the friendship between Hunt and Lauda—not just the rivalry. We do get the sense that there is much respect between the drivers, but we don’t get the emotional detail that their close relationship deserved.
But the characters are developed well and credibly, and the on-screen portrayal of Niki Lauda (by actor Daniel Brühl) is particularly praiseworthy. Having been able to consult with Lauda surely helped to create an accurate depiction, but the details into the terse, calculating driver’s personality is very serious, but also comedically entertaining.
Rush doesn’t shy away from much of anything, whether that be flawed characters, on-screen debauchery, or, most chillingly, the gruesome depiction of Lauda’s medical treatment in the wake of his 1976 accident. These aspects all add to the gravity of the film, and it feels honest enough to be very involving and thoroughly entertaining.
Rush is not a documentary, and there are valid criticisms to be made. As as a whole, though, the film successfully portrays a story of passion and humanity, with plenty of spectacular driving to carry the movie from one harrowing scene to the next.