The most interesting thing about Rush is that it avoids doing what you would expect every other film to do with its lead characters – it doesn’t take sides. Rush is the story of the rivalry between James Hunt, the prototypical Formula 1 playboy, and Niki Lauda who, while Austrian, could be considered the template for the stereotype of the hardworking German in search of precision and perfection. These two faced off over the course of the 1976 F1 World Championship, a season notable for a number of fatalities and horrific injuries.
The typical way to tell this story would be for Lauda to be presented as the bad guy. He was the incumbent world champion, he was cold, blunt, brusque. Hunt, on the other hand, was naturally skilled but didn’t care for preparation, relying on his wits. He was handsome, charming, a crowd-pleaser. I guess what prevented that narrative was the accident that happened partway through the season in which Lauda was almost killed, receiving terrible burns across his face, leaving him disfigured. Casting him as the bad guy would be harsh to say the least.
Instead, the film challenges the audience to make up their own minds, which is refreshing from a mainstream venture. It’s an interesting challenge. I have always sided with the guys with the natural talent, and the guys who show their emotions – people like Seve Ballesteros – over those who practice, practice, practice and keep their emotions inside – Tiger Woods for example – but Rush seeks to open up that more mechanical persona and turn it into something more human.
Overall, the film is enjoyable, solid mainstream fair, drawing engaging characters and relationships (though reputedly playing fast and loose with Hunt and Lauda’s off-track friendship), and I only really found it lacking in the driving sequences, which isn’t as big a miss as it sounds. The heart and soul of the film is in the characters, and so the fact that the on-track scenes don’t have you on the edge of your seat isn’t crippling but it’s certainly a disappointment.
Film length: 2hrs 3 mins – Feels like: 1hr 45mins