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RUSH (2013)
There’s nothing like a racing rivalry to get one’s adrenaline pumping.
Ron Howard’s latest offering, Rush, is based on the fiery Formula 1 feud between Austrian racer Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl) and English driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Both men come from contrasting backgrounds and get to the top of the F1 ladder through drastically different means, but both have enough ambition and determination to be each other’s formidable opponents. The film is focused, riveting and exciting, balancing tension and levity in a very smart and concise manner. Although not quite as compelling as Asif Kapadia’s fantastic documentary Senna, Rush is a success in that it manages to highlight the spectacle of racing while at the same time introducing drama and conflict in a way that comes off as very organic. If you can help it, I would recommend watching this film knowing as little as possible about the competition. It was much more enjoyable for me that way. As someone who knew next to nothing about F1 racing before Rush, I found the film very accessible and easy to follow.
Peter Morgan, the scribe behind The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon, accomplishes quite the feat in making both Rush's two leading men equally sympathetic and likable. Hunt, flamboyant, reckless and charming, is the complete polar opposite to the no-nonsense and brusque Lauda. Considering that Hemsworth is the more popular actor of the two (a fact further emphasized by the marketing posters for the film that prominently feature the Thor star), one would think that he would easily be the one to root for in such cutthroat competition. Morgan expertly paints the two characters in both favorable and compromising positions, and as a result, both men equally appeal to viewers, making for a much more interesting dynamic.  
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It may seem as though sports movies would be trickier to make because of the fine line one must toe to please diehard fans of the sport along with novices. However, at the end of the day every sports movie is boiled down to a human interest story. People don’t watch sports movies because they want to see every technique and the cleverest of tactics. They watch because sports are more about the people who play them and less about how many points an athlete scored. It’s about our collective desire to root for others to succeed. Films like Rudy, Rocky, The Wrestler, The Fighter and Warrior - these aren’t merely about the sports being played, but the relationships between the people involved and what motivates each individual to pursue the rigors and dangers that come with their jobs. It’s doubly important that a film connect with viewers when talking about high risk sports, when the audience may not exactly be sympatico with the idea of someone risking their life for a trophy and title. Why do these people play sports? What drives them, what make them tick on and off the court/field/what-have-you, how their personalities affect their performances - all questions that sports films strive to answer. Rush answers most of these questions and not much more, but it does go the extra mile by presenting a pragmatic point of view to a contentious battle.
The film asks many questions, but the one I found most interesting was its query into who audiences should root for - a man who’s passionate about racing or a man who races to find passion. The film offers both options as equally viable ones in a noble attempt at portraying the real complexities of individuals. Hunt’s raw enthusiasm for the daring and devilish was enviable. He approached the sport with a kind of reckless abandon that made him unpredictable yet thrilling to watch. His character perfectly encapsulated the rockstar status of race car drivers. On the other hand, Lauda’s textbook approach to racing was commendable, and his savviness and confidence made him soar through the already established competition. He was the clear technical talent, one who could sustain an entire race as opposed to Hunt’s quick burn/turbo fueled style. Nevertheless, both characters shared the protagonist role generously, certainly not an easy accomplishment for the actors and Howard.

Audiences would undoubtedly be seduced by Hunt’s easy smile and devil-may-care attitude. After all, who doesn’t like a rebel without a cause? But equally as endearing was Brühl’s Lauda, whose matter-of-fact approach to racing was an almost lovable pedagogy. The multidimensionality of the film’s characters brought a depth to the story that grounded their high octane exploits. Hunt may have been charismatic and easygoing, but he was also irresponsible and immature. Lauda may have been calculating and diligent, but he also had the tendency to be cold and harsh. Brühl had the advantage of playing a character with a lot more dimension than Hemsworth’s. I have to admit that Lauda was far more fascinating to me because of his unconventional likability, and that his social awkwardness made him an underdog that was easy to root for. Brühl did a spectacular job in breaking down his complicated character. He was believable every step of the way and completely immersed in the role.  
Olivia Wilde, who played Hunt’s wife Suzy, must be commended for her near flawless English accent. I was surprised at how good she sounded. I’m usually skeptical about American actors attempting English accents, only because so many have failed horribly at it, but Wilde was a pleasant surprise. Natalie Dormer was also fantastic as one of Hunt’s earlier doe-eyed admirers. She always excels at looking like the doting girlfriend, as is the case in Game of Thrones.
Overall, Rush is a fascinating story about two men who could not be more different from each other, yet are brought together by their mutual love for racing. One excels at it because it’s the only thing he believes he’s good at, while the other races because he likes the rush of dancing with death each time he hits the track. Performances were strong, particularly from Brühl, and Howard does a great job paying tribute to a sport that many (including Yours Truly) often find difficult to understand, let alone enjoy. Rush's straightforward simplicity in its storytelling makes it one of the best films of the year. 

RUSH (2013)

There’s nothing like a racing rivalry to get one’s adrenaline pumping.

Ron Howard’s latest offering, Rush, is based on the fiery Formula 1 feud between Austrian racer Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl) and English driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Both men come from contrasting backgrounds and get to the top of the F1 ladder through drastically different means, but both have enough ambition and determination to be each other’s formidable opponents. The film is focused, riveting and exciting, balancing tension and levity in a very smart and concise manner. Although not quite as compelling as Asif Kapadia’s fantastic documentary Senna, Rush is a success in that it manages to highlight the spectacle of racing while at the same time introducing drama and conflict in a way that comes off as very organic. If you can help it, I would recommend watching this film knowing as little as possible about the competition. It was much more enjoyable for me that way. As someone who knew next to nothing about F1 racing before Rush, I found the film very accessible and easy to follow.

Peter Morgan, the scribe behind The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon, accomplishes quite the feat in making both Rush's two leading men equally sympathetic and likable. Hunt, flamboyant, reckless and charming, is the complete polar opposite to the no-nonsense and brusque Lauda. Considering that Hemsworth is the more popular actor of the two (a fact further emphasized by the marketing posters for the film that prominently feature the Thor star), one would think that he would easily be the one to root for in such cutthroat competition. Morgan expertly paints the two characters in both favorable and compromising positions, and as a result, both men equally appeal to viewers, making for a much more interesting dynamic.  

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