Making films about real life characters always presents a challenge; more so if one of them doesn't live to see the day his tale is made into a film. Coming from director Ron Howard, known for films like 'Apollo 13', 'A Beautiful Mind', 'Da Vinci Code', 'Rush' is about two great personalities in the high adrenalin Formula 1 racing.
The story begins on the start line where Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) narrates the story of how James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) influenced his life and the days of Formula 1 in the 1970's where it was not uncommon for drivers to die in accidents.
James Hunt, who in real life was known as a playboy is appropriately portrayed on screen. There's a scene from his early days where he walks into at a hospital to get his injuries treated and lo behold, he seduces the nurse in James Bond style! Then, we are introduced to his career in Formula 3 where he drives for Lord Hesketh's team.
Although the film marks the meeting of Lauda and Hunt in the F3 race on a sour note, it is believed that the duo were actually friends and shared an apartment during their early days. Was this an error? Or was it deliberately avoided to bring about dramatic tension between its lead stars right from the start? We wouldn't know.
The character of Niki Lauda starkly contrasts with Hunt as he is cool, calculating, worknig with the team on developing the car and isn't bothered about partying or popularity. In real life too, it is believed that Lauda never let the achievements get into his head and he gave away his trophies to a local garage in exchange for car wash.
Discussing the story itself isn't necessary for the review as most of the critical elements of the plot are based on actual, well known events. Its most poignant moment is how Lauda returns to track merely six weeks after a near-fatal crash with bandages on his wounds and leads the championship till he pulls out of the season's last race at Fuji when the treacherous weather conditions made the race too dangerous.
'Rush' does a wonderful job in recreating the F1 races, the imagery of powerful engines, tires ready to zoom as pedal hits metal, and the infamous Nürburgring crash of 1976. In fact, Niki Lauda in his interviews has praised the filmmakers for portraying the crash and his treatments in a realistic manner and that the scenes 'shocked' him.
Reportedly, the actors weren't allowed to drive real Formula 1 cars. So, the film makers are said to have used F3 cars with the bodywork of F1 cars of that era to make them look like the real deal. Still, they drove some mean machines. Wow!
The actors have done a good job and look like their real life counterparts. Chris Hemsworth still seems like Thor with the long hair, but less bulky. Daniel Brühl, an acclaimed German actor embodies the role of Lauda, Olivia Wilde as Suzy Miller, Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene Knaus and Pierfrancesco Favino as Clay Regazzoni have done a neat job and there's not a moment where it feels inauthentic.
What works for the movie, other than the stunningly recreated visuals is the emphasis on its characters. At its soul is the portrayal of how Hunt and Lauda influenced each other's lives and careers. Although the two champions were very different by their outwardly lives, they shared a common passion for racing and winning and looking at each other to seek the much needed challenge and why you need enemies!
Verdict: if you are one of those who like Bollywood family dramas branded as racing films, like Ta Ra Rum Pum, let me assure you that 'Rush' isn't for you. But, if you are a Formula 1 fan, don't even think twice; just go for it.
Rating 7/10: Dramatic tension and Authenticity of F1 in the 70's