Headlined by director Ron Howard, the movie tells the story of the 1976 Formula 1 racing season and the legendary rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Lauda, the defending world champion at the time, pulls out a large lead on Hunt while Hunt has car difficulties, which Hunt then makes up after Lauda has a near-fatal accident.
How this developed into an intense rivalry with one driver or the other incapacitated during the vast majority of the season is beyond me.
In its best form, Rush would be an intense scrutinization of the German Grand Prix that year. The heart of Hunt’s and Lauda’s rivalry was their contrasting natures. Hunt is courageous and reckless and Lauda is clever, cold and calculated. This was the race in which that conflict came to a head.
While the crew tried to focus on it, making the race a part of the prologue and the first half of the film a flashback, but that trick lost significance when it became fashionable.
Instead, Rush is a giant — two very long hours — blow-by-blow breakdown of the principal characters’ lives. The producers wanted to get everything in there but didn’t want it to be too long, and it led to some sloppy writing.
Take the storyline with Hunt’s failed marriage. This kind of story constitutes the entirety of some very good movies (Blue Valentine springs to mind). But in Rush, they only have a couple of scenes — the first time Hunt meets Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) and then their last fight before divorcing.
The lack of screen time leads to weak, self-aware dialogue because that’s the only way to make sure the audience gets all the context. Real people don’t talk like Hunt and Miller do in these scenes. Real Formula 1 announcers don’t cater their play-by-play to people who don’t watch Formula 1, and it’s a safe bet the real Lauda never waxed poetic about how much fun having a rival is. It’s tough to tell whether Brühl is supposed to really hate Hunt’s guts and fails to express that through the say-exactly-what-you-want-the-film-audience-to-think dialogue or if his character is actually that self-aware.
Howard and writer Peter Morgan simply don’t communicate the soul of their story well here. A lot happens in Rush, but it just happens. There’s nothing to put the audience on the edge of it’s seat and make us want to keep watching.
Since it aspires to be a talkie, the weak dialogue gives most of this sense, but it’s everywhere. The race scenes are thrilling, but too short. Emotional scenes are also rushed.
I guess the movie was very well-titled, but that’s about all that can be said for it. Rush is just barely entertaining throughout, but not worth the two hour investment it demands.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He gets all the Major Arcana. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back later in the week for a review of Gravity.