The latest F1 movie to hit the screens is “Rush”, the story of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, set during the dramatic 1976 season in which Lauda almost lost his life.
The film charts the build up to Lauda’s accident at the Nurburgring and his subsequent recovery.
Here is our review of the film, together with some behind the scenes video with interviews of Niki Lauda, Jenson Button, Christian Horner, David Coulthard and the stars of the film, from the London premiere.
The first thing to say about “Rush” is that the people in it are terrific. Sport is all about personalities and rivalries and the central acting performances in the film; Daniel Bruhl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as Hunt are fantastic.
As the film goes on you forget you are watching an actor when you look at Bruhl. In the second half of the film in particular he “becomes” Lauda and his accent is perfect. He also imbues a seemingly cold and unlikeable character with pathos, which is quite a feat.
Knowing Lauda and having known Hunt I can honestly say that the performances are well judged and the dialogue is largely fitting. Hunt is more superficially covered, but the spirit is definitely there and the determination, which always had an underlying aggressiveness.
Some of the cameo roles are a bit cliched, but overall the film is well played.
The central conceit of the film is that the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda was so all consuming that it almost killed Lauda, as he pushed himself beyond the limit to beat the Englishman. But by an ingenious twist, it is also the same rivalrly that saves his life as he battles in hospital to recover (having been given the Last Rites by a priest) because he so badly wants to get back out there and beat Hunt again.
This storyline, from scriptwriter Peter Morgan, works well around this pivot and is coherent. He overplays the dislike between Hunt and Lauda – there are far too many photos of them smiling together in any F1 archive to stand that portrayal up. But this is a dramatisation and it’s okay to have some licence, I suppose.
The dialogue isn’t memorable – no-one will be quoting any lines from the movie down the pub, as they would with Balestre’s monstrous, “The best decision is MY decision” in “Senna”.
There are some fairly graphic moments as Lauda’s lungs are hoovered of fluid, which I watched through my fingers!
On the whole this review is positive save for a few small things:
The film is set in the mid 1970s and has a really nice ’70s look and feel to it. So it’s unfortunate that the Computer Generated Images (CGI) used to create excitement in the track action sequences, wrench you out of the 1970s and into the 21st century. There’s not much Howard could do to avoid this, in fairness, and CGI is the most effective way of having two 1970s F1 cars bang wheels and skid off the track. But it means you come out of the 1970s bubble from time to time.
“Senna” avoided this by being sequential from 1984 to 1994 and never coming out of the contemporary look and feel of the footage.
My biggest criticism of the film, however, is that they rely far too heavily on the clunky mechanism of having reporters and commentators spell out the situation going into the various races in the film. It is always better if the plot and storyline can be moved along by the characters themselves, rather than have some TV reporter pop up suddenly, saying “So the situation going into the Italian Grand Prix is this: James Hunt trails in the points by…” and so on.
It wouldn’t be a problem if it happened occasionally, as in the 1966 film “Grand Prix”, but it happens all the time and the film seems to clunk along from one example to another.
In this day and age there has to be a better way to disclose information to the audience than with recitals from reporters and commentators. It’s like an F1 car, missing a gear every few corners – it spoils the flow.
But these small criticisms apart, it’s a good film – not a great film – which will be of interest to anyone who is well inclined towards motorsport. There is plenty of racing action, good plot and outstanding acting.
Will “Rush” succeed? All the signs are that it will. It comes a suitable time after “Senna”, which reminded mainstream audiences about F1 and made it seem visceral and exciting. “Rush” continues that trend and leaves scope for further motor sport movies in the future.
As the movie business changes, and the delivery mechanisms for the content evolve via internet, Netflix and so on, there is a lot of scope for marrying the right movie content to an established niche audience whist achieving mainstream crossover via the cinemas. If F1 films make sense financially to movie houses, they will continue to back projects.