Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies in the Rear-View Mirror (They May be Closer Than They Appear)
The main reason I wanted to see Rush was that it has a script by Peter Morgan, whose work from The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United, Hereafter* have all been thought-provoking, literate screenplays and one wondered how he could provide that in a racing film, a sub-genre focused more on visceral momentum and the visual and where the weakest sections have always been those outside of the cars and off-track.
This one, though, it completely opposite in the tradition of Howard Hawks' race-track movies. And it's all true (except for a lie or two). It tells the story of two (eventual) Formula 1 drivers, Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), Austrian, teutonic, disciplined, engineer and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), British, louge, seat-of-your-pants, tactician. They couldn't be more different except that both want to be the best and will do anything, risk anything to get there.
And they're both damned good drivers.**
Both are bad boys in their own ways. Lauda comes from a prominent Austrian family, but does not want to go into the family business, which disowns any acceptance of Niki's ambitions to drive professionally. So, he finds a race-team going bankrupt, buys it cheap by cashing in his life insurance policy, and takes over, re-building the car's engine from scratch. Hunt knows a rich boy, Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay) with money to throw away and a party every hour. In the film, the two despise each other immediately. The first time Hunt sees Lauda at a Formula Two race (one of those examples of "a lie or two"), director Ron Howard throws a rainbow refraction from Hunt's POV, bringing a mysticism over the moment that might be a bit too much.That first race, they bump and spin. Hunt can't pull himself back into the race, his engine conks out, but Lauda, with some difficulty, throws himself the right way and is able to race his way to victory. Hunt starts to berate Lauda about it, but the Austrian is dismissive—it was the car, not the driver, Lauda had the better car and was able to get back in. Hunt's still pissed, insults Lauda by saying he looks like a rat, then goes off and parties with Hesketh, the crew and any woman within arm's length, as is his habit. It's the start of a rivalry that will have its up's and down's, but that is the character-arc that both drivers have, and will have throughout the entire movie. Their focused competition will push each of them to doing crazy things on and off the track.
It may not seem like much, but it's the Ron Howard way to make movies. Like a good race-track, eliminate any bumps in the road that might add dimension, nuance, or raise a question in the mind that might distract. If you set up a joke, show the pay-off at the next cut. If there's a building-up montage, make sure you show the results first thing. If you want to show the treadmill of being famous, put David Bowie's "Fame" on the soundtrack (released in 1975, it fits the period).
|A shot like this is used quite a bit: it makes you go "hmmm."
|Really, this is just to increase my Internet "hits."
Olivia Wilde as model Suzy Miller—she's in the film for as long as you're looking at this picture.
|Niki and James, when Lauda came back to racing six weeks after his accident.
* He was also involved in the early stages of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Skyfall.
** Here's a Lauda quote (a real one) about Hunt:"We were big rivals, especially at the end of the  season, but I respected him because you could drive next to him—2 centimeters, wheel-by-wheel, for 300 kilometers or more—and nothing would happen. He was a real top driver at the time." That's the sort of admiration Lauda would allow himself—an appreciation of undeniable skill.
Really, Ron? Really?