By William Wolf


Ron Howard has directed a supercharged, often breathtaking car racing saga based on a true highly competitive face-off between obsessive rivals who risk death in the quest for fame and fortune. “Rush,” which was one of the more compelling films at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), zeroes in on bitter rivals James Hunt, played by the handsome Chris Hemsworth, and Niki Lauda, played by the fascinating Daniel Brühl, and the key year harks back to 1976. The screenplay by Peter Morgan keeps the plot spinning with the emphasis on the Formula One action, but with some time out for romantic involvement.

Although the film is consistently riveting, my mind kept flashing back to John Frankenheimer’s 1966 “Grand Prix,” some of the filming of which I observed thanks to one of those junkets so popular in that era. Frankenheimer, using the wiles of filmmaking at the time, expertly positioned his cameras to capture the excitement of the Grand Prix on the French Riviera. He worked wonders with the action sequences. As for Howard’s film, he had so much more in the way of updated technology at his command and he has made brilliant use of it.

Even those not especially interested in racing should find excitement in watching this saga unfurl. True, competition between rivals has been a movie staple for years, but the acting and the intensity, along with the superb cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, make the film sparkle. The scenes on the track, including a spectacular crash, are flamboyant. At times it is almost as if we are riding in the bizarre vehicles designed for maximum speed.

Hunt and Lauda are shown as very different types. Hunt is very much of a playboy who loves to be surrounded by beautiful women and has no trouble attracting them. He is also reckless in his willingness to defy death. Lauda, for all of his daring, is cautious in the sense that he doesn’t want to take risks needlessly. When he deems a track too dangerous he doesn’t want to be macho and ignore the foolishness of going ahead with a race under such circumstances. He also shows tremendous courage in persevering toward recovery after disaster strikes him.

Howard casts Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara as the key women in the lives of the racing antagonists and they acquit themselves well despite their rather clichéd roles. But make no mistake. The film is centered on the men, their cars, the madness of speeds achieved and the skill it takes to win and to survive. A Universal Pictures release. Reviewed September 20, 2013


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