In Rush, director Ron Howard tells of the fierce rivalry in the 1976 Formula One racing season, as British driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) vie for the world championship.
Hunt is the superbly talented playboy who drinks, smokes and beds his way through the season, seemingly driven by the sole need to defeat his archrival for the title.
Lauda, on the other hand, is a more calculating character. A genius at setting up his racing car, Lauda is portrayed as the polar opposite of Hunt – a cantankerous wizard largely shunned by other drivers.
Hemsworth capitalises on his good looks and screen charm to nail the perfectly shallow Hunt, but Brühl’s performance as the no-nonsense Lauda is where Rush gets truly exceptional.
Hunt ostensibly brands the Austrian an ‘asshole’ throughout the story – yet even before Lauda’s fiery inferno at the Nurburgring, Brühl has got you rooting for Lauda with equal measure to Hunt.
In fact, Brühl was so keen to get the authenticity of his character correct that he met with Lauda on several occasions and spoke on the phone whenever he wasn’t sure on the detail.
“Niki is probably the most undiplomatic man in the world, as you will see, he’s very blunt,” Brühl said of the legendary driver.
“The first time he called me, he said ‘just bring hand luggage to Vienna. If we don’t like each other, you can piss off right away.’”
Special praise also goes to cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, whose intense close-up camerawork places the audience smack bang in the driver’s seat for some jaw-dropping sequences.
The deafening rumbles of the engines as they’re fired up and the minute movement of the tyres on the grid as a driver punches the throttle is a truly intoxicating cinematic experience.
As the film races from exotic locations like Brazil and Monaco to England, the track scenes never feel repetitive. The race-day tension balances perfectly with the subplot involving Lauda and Hunt, with both areas of the film maintaining a sharp edge for audiences.
Rush might not break radical new ground for race cinematography in the way Grand Prix did in the mid 60s, but Ron Howard still delivers a film that is nothing less than electrifying.
Well worth its ticket price, this is a must for a younger generation that may have missed out on the glory days of the 1970s superstar drivers.