Thor Goes Vroom Vroom in 'Rush,' Ron Howard's Tense, Spellbinding Race-Car Action Drama
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Thor Goes Vroom Vroom in 'Rush,' Ron Howard's Tense, Spellbinding Race-Car Action Drama

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | September 27, 2013 | Comments ()


The absolute last thing I could’ve imagined enjoying — even respecting — is a movie about Thor racing around in a circle for two hours, directed by Ron Howard, who is always serviceable but rarely inspiring. Rush is a welcome surprise, however: Ron Howard does with Formula One racing what directors do with the best sports movies: Parse out relatable themes, and explore human ambition, the nature of rivalry, and how our enemies often bring out the best in us.

Rush recreates the 1970’s clash between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), a hard-drinking, promiscuous Englishman who embraced the mortal dangers of F1 racing, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), an Austrian who thought of racing in terms of risk and percentages, who approached each race mechanically. The two couldn’t be anymore dissimilar, but their rivalry was legendary, equal parts animosity and begrudging respect. They were driven by their hatred of each other, but it was that drive that made the two the best in the sport.

What’s remarkable about Rush is how true-to-life the amazingly gripping story is, culminating in the heated competition for the 1976 Formula One World Championship. Real-life does a remarkable job here of subverting the sports-movie formula, turning what seemed like a underdog story about James Hunt challenging the arrogant World Champion into a film that’s almost less about winning, and more about surviving a sport where two out of every 25 racers apparently die each year. That danger brings in a second layer of tension to Rush: Who wil win, and who will survive?

Hemsworth does an excellent job, as you might imagine, of playing the aggressive, hard-charging Playboy who f*cks everything in his path, including a nurse played by Natalie Dormer, and Hunt’s first wife Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), who would later leave him for Richard Burton. Brühl has the more challenging role of making sympathetic an unlikable, rat-faced anal-retentive heel, and it’s a credit to his performance that, by the final act of Rush, the audience’s alliances are split fairly equally between Hunt and Lauda. The final act, as a result, is thoroughly and intensely nail biting.

Howard, working from Peter Morgan’s (Frost/Nixon) script, is his usual sure-footed self. For better or worse, Howard lacks a signature style, and while he rarely adds anything to his movies, it’s to his advantage when the story is strong enough to thrive on its own. Rush is exactly that: A great story reliably told; Howard stands back and lets the actors and the screenplay do all the work.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Strand

    Hemsworth is the size of three F1 drivers, it's only slightly less odd than if they cast Thor as a jockey.

  • Alexander

    Call me weak but I am watching anything with Olivia Wilde. Adding in Thor is just a cherry on top

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Both actors were superb and it's a testament to their talent that by the end I seemed to care about the two of them in equal measure, even if it was a tad melodramatic at times I enjoyed immensely and, I'll admit it, teared up by the end.

    I can attribute that admiration and respect for race car drivers to Ayrton Senna, possibly the greatest pilot in the history F1, and a legend in Brazil, Japan and all over Europe, the rare exception of the man who matched the myth surrounding his life.

    If you liked "Rush" then you'll love "Senna", the documentary, never would I have thought that a man who raced against death around a track (not oval circles, they indeed have sinuous curves) for the sheer thrill of racing would be such an inspirational human being. Really, watch it.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Hemingway was right.

    Write drunk, edit sober. I seem to have failed at both given the lack of revision in my original post, those sneaking typos.

  • michaelceratops

    I went to a screening with a bunch of my work colleagues last night and we all smuggled in flasks because we thought it was going to be terrible and we were going to drink the pain away (something I wouldn't have done in a public screening but we're all advertising boozers) and we all came out of it pleasantly surprised. I'm surprised that you didn't mention the cinematography because it was phenomenal and absolutely made the movie for me. It's really going to stand out for me this year because of that. So gorgeous. I wish I would have seen it on film projection because the digital projection gave me a bit of a headache but it was still breathtaking.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    I know this is getting mostly rave reviews but I didn't think much of it at all, which was a disappointment. Just really hard to care about these two men who are pretty unlikeable. The last 20 minutes was gripping but the rest of it dragged for me. Plus I read somewhere that they were actually friends, not total rivals - well, if wiki is to be believed of course.

    I dunno, it was just missing something.

  • Parsnip

    indeed they were friends, according to Lauda, they shared a flat together in their early racing days and remained friends. Lauda accepted the invented rivalry was necessary for the movie.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    I think that was part of my problem with it, the rivalry is about all there is, (and it's not even real) and there's no real depth. You've got two not really fleshed out characters fighting for something and you barely get why it means that much to them. Hunt is the messed up womaniser and Lauda is the anal know-allTheir wives barely get any screen time and I'm somehow supposed to care about their relationships? They clearly don't.

    Anyway, sorry, a rant no one needs.

  • Rebecca

    I'm actually excited to see this movie because of Daniel Bruehl, who was amazing in Goodbye, Lenin! (and fun to hate in Inglourious Bastards).

  • Uuuungh. I want to watch this for the Hemsworth factor alone (even if the hair is a disgrace) and because it does sound good...but really not good enough or worth the $10 at the stupid theater.

    I think I'll have to wait for the DVD.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    If I could add my two cents, watch it at the theater.

    Not only for the beautiful cinematography, especially in the rain, but because of the brutal soaring sound a F1 car makes, the roar of each and every component of 25 coffins on top of a moving bomb on a closed circuit, that "boom" on track as if it was a rocket speeding on the tarmac mere metres away from the audience.

    They captured that spectator's experience extremely well on the silver screen, if you can then you should see it on a massive screen for the same reason as "Pacific Rim".

  • Homestar

    Good review. But I thought that Formula 1 tracks weren't circles, but had multiple turns. Can anyone confirm?

    Also, I know it's obnoxious, but I have to point out that there are a lot of typos in this review, so much so that I'm hoping everything is okay on the other end.

  • Maguita NYC

    There are no circles in F1. Here is the official site as well as the circuit map for the next race in Korea.

  • My 9-year-old daughter has made it known that Mr Hemsworth should just be referred to as Thor forever. So it's not just Maria Hill that has to say, "You haven't been near Thor's arms."

    So, a good flick, can it, in this valley before the prestige-film season, overcome the Wilde kiss of death? And I say that hoping so, as I'm signed up for a Wilde kiss, death or no.

  • pajiba

    I think the people who see it will love it, but I don't think all the good reviews in the world will be enough to get people out of their houses to see a race car movie. I think the Wilde kiss of death remains intact.

  • Maguita NYC

    I have been a Formula 1 fan for quite some time now, and the 1990s races were those of outrageous egos and daredevils, as it takes monumental amounts of both to thrive in racing.

    If your review is any indication, this might be one of the best representations of the sport and I can't wait to go see it!

    That, and of course Thor's luscious derriere that apparently makes an appearance?

  • stella

    Isnt it Olivia Wilde, not Olivia Munn?

  • pajiba

    Damnit. Yes. I forgot to refer to this:

  • er

    I think that was done on purpose so when someone mentioned it you could link to that.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    I do enjoy me some good Hemsworth. Very tempted to see this movie.

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