Home » Years » 2013 » Rush •••• 1/2

Rush •••• 1/2

Rush_movie_posterStarring: Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde
Director: Ron Howard
Screenplay: Peter Morgan
Action/Biography/Drama, Rated: R
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2013


(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I’m fascinated that they would make a movie about Rush Limbaugh.

It’s not a movie about the Right, it’s about going in circles to the Left!

Bahaha, good one, Greg. Rush is the story of the rivalry during the 1970s between two Formula 1 drivers, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The movie opens with the two of them bumping cars during a 1970 Formula 3 race in England. Hunt wins the race but Lauda is outraged by Hunt’s disregard for safety. Lauda then borrows a large sum of money that enables him to make it to the big time of Formula 1.  Hunt also joins a Formula 1 team and the two men resume their rivalry on the big stage.

Hunt is a playboy. He is out for a good time. He wants to have fun. And the only thing he wants more than to have fun is to win. Lauda is meticulous, methodical, and rigorous. The only thing he wants is to win. These two men have the same goals in mind, but they have two different ways to get it. And it is these differences that make up the conflict in this movie.

Greg, Rush is an impressive movie with an impeccable cast and outstanding direction from Ron Howard.  I can’t imagine two better actors for the roles of Hunt and Lauda. These two men remind me of fire and ice, two contrasting styles reminiscent of Kirk and Spock in Star Trek. The resulting tension between Hunt and Lauda, both on and off the track, is pure sizzle and spark.  It’s rare to see such a powerful rivalry between two sports celebrities portrayed so well on film.

Scott, we saw this last week in Prisoners. Two men with the same goal but with opposite ways of approaching it. Lauda is hands-on all the way. Off the track, he works day and night preparing his car. He uses the latest materials, trims every ounce to make his car lighter and faster. On the track, he observes every rule and plays up to but not over the margins of safety.

Hunt, on the other hand, is very hands off. He expects his team to work the details of his car and the business of running the race. When the race is over, he’s off drinking and carousing leaving Lauda to go home to his dutiful wife. During the race, Hunt crosses the line from safe to reckless – doing whatever it takes to pass the next racer and win the race.

You note the resemblance to last week’s movie Prisoners, but I see some important differences.  In Prisoners, the two heroes share the same goal of catching an abductor, but in Rush there is a clear and intense competition between two heroes whose goals are in conflict. Plus, in Rush we see our two hero-celebrities over time develop a grudging respect for each other.

In fact, I’d say that this growing mutual admiration is an important element of their character transformations during their hero journeys. The pivotal moment in Hunt’s development occurs when he punches a reporter who disrespects Lauda during a press conference. Prior to this moment we see only hatred from Hunt toward Lauda, but Lauda’s recovery has forever changed Hunt’s opinion of Lauda. And of course the key transformational moment for Lauda takes place in the hospital when he shows remarkable resilience in the face of debilitating injury. Watching these two men change and grow in many ways — as drivers, as husbands, as businessmen, and as rivals — is a sheer joy to watch.

What Scott is referring to is a story element that is in all the trailers, but occurs late in the film. Lauda, against his better judgement, enters into a race and has a terrible accident where he is burned all over his body and face. Lauda undergoes painful surgeries to recover soon enough to get back into the race season and contend with Hunt for the cup.

What I walk away with from this movie is how much these men come to admire each other and still maintain their own styles. Lauda is ever analyzing and refining his craft. Hunt is constantly looking to have fun while he can. But each learns that the other’s way of approaching the race has its merits. Another buddy-hero story I’m reminded of is Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who had different ways of approaching the computer industry (Gates in favor of open systems and Jobs favoring closed systems). In the end there is a grudging admiration of the other.

I like that Gates-Jobs analogy a lot, Greg, and perhaps the recent film Jobs would have been a more effective movie if it had focused more on that rivalry with the same effectiveness as Rush. Ron Howard deserves great credit for telling a great dual-hero story that anyone can appreciate, even people like me who have no interest in auto racing. The key is to create compelling, multi-dimensional characters whom we care about and who undergo significant transformation. This was done to near perfection in Rush.

Rush is why I go to the movies. I fell right into the lives of these two men. I felt the power of racing and the will to win. I came to admire what each man offered and could see myself in their places. When I look back on Rush and wonder what could have been done better, I can’t think of a single thing. The film lasted 123 minutes and I wanted more when the story was done. And this is nothing less than what you’d expect from a Ron Howard film. Every detail of the story was attended to: from the 70’s look and feel, to the speeding cars, to the realistic crashes. I was hooked from the beginning.

For easily one of the best films we’ve seen this year, I give Rush 5 out of 5 Reels. And for telling a two-handed story with precision and style, I give Rush 5 out of 5 Heroes.

Movie: reel-5 Heroes: superman-5

I thoroughly enjoyed Rush and am happy to award it 4 Reels out of 5 and 4 Heroes out of 5. The reason I am hesitant to give the full 5 Reels and 5 Heroes is based on my belief that seeking to become the best car racer in the world is much more a quest for personal glory than it is a heroic quest. Last week I gave Prisoners two 5 ratings because the heroic goal was to save lives. We see no such virtuous goal in Rush.

Still, I agree, Greg, that Rush is one of the best films of the year. The two main characters are celebrities, not heroes, but it’s still a riveting and impeccably-told story. The performances were exemplary all-around and I anticipate an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Ron Howard.

Movie: reel-4 Heroes: superman-4

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