It’s the noise of ‘Rush’ that sticks with you after seeing Ron Howard’s fun and tense dip into the volatile world of 1970s Formula 1 – the violent roar of engines on the starting grid and the sound in the cockpit like you’re being propelled to the moon on a DIY rocket. That, and the feeling that you’ve been scraping your nose along rainy, rubber-stained asphalt for almost two hours.
Last time Howard made a sports movie it was the underpowered boxing film ‘Cinderella Man’. But ‘Rush’ has on its team British screenwriter Peter Morgan – who also wrote Howard’s ‘Frost/Nixon’, another head-to-head tale set in the 1970s. Here, the sparring partners are champagne-swilling British racing driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), a stern Austrian.
Part of the fun of ‘Rush’ is how it takes us back to a pre-Ryanair time, when England and the rest of Europe were still miles apart. It’s a story of detente and new beginnings, as fierce rivals Hunt and Lauda come to something of an understanding as we watch them contest race after race around the globe during the 1976 Grand Prix season. You wonder what effect the F1 documentary ‘Senna’ had on ‘Rush’. There are parallels: the rivalry, of course, but also an explosive row and a horrifying crash. Maybe ‘Senna’ just reassured the filmmakers that audiences beyond F1 fans would care.
They’ve gone all out to make ‘Rush’ look exciting. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle matches the film’s look to period archive footage and finds angles and perspectives you’d think impossible. It’s anything but boring. It’s also one of those cheeky real-life tales that Morgan adores: a portrait of people in crisis who live their lives in the public glare, whether it’s the Queen, Nixon or Tony Blair. ‘Rush’ is fast, slippery, stormy and dangerous.