In racing saga ‘Rush,’ excitement is just the first layer

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Rush (2013)

Directed by Ron Howard

8/10  R

Don’t mistake “Rush,” Ron Howard’s best directing effort since 2008’s “Frost/Nixon,” for a movie simply about racing – it’s about testing the limits of the competitive spirit. Based on the stop-at-nothing rivalry between Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), 1970s Formula One racing superstars, “Rush” redefines intensity, pushing back the lines previously thought to exist in the sports drama.

Rush-Movie-2013Is there nobility in near-death? Hunt thought so, but Lauda played it safe and calculated his risks. Why, then, was it Lauda who suffered a nearly fatal injury on the same day that Hunt reveled in another win that got him another step closer to the world championship? This is a story for the ages, where rivalry is only the first layer. Underneath, Ron Howard unpeels what really drove these two arrogant icons.

Hemsworth and Bruhl craft two well-rounded anti-heroes we can’t help but love. Hemsworth, fresh off another “Thor” flick, plays the playboy Hunt with careless intensity and chaotic grace. In the era of free love, Hunt understood the benefits of celebrity. Hemsworth portrays that without having to exert much effort. Bruhl received a Gold Globe nomination for his more subtle role as Lauda, a loner who cared more about winning than racing. He’s superb.

A script from Peter Morgan sometimes speeds past some of this racing saga’s most important moments with Formula One speed, but when it takes the time to settle down it can be a lesson in patience. Bringing up interesting moral dilemmas, the script doesn’t 20130918133436rush_3tell you what to believe – it only clearly explains both sides of these contrasting characters’ principles of life. You have to decide.

A subdued Hans Zimmer score roars up at just the right moments, but remains a nearly silent accompaniment to the drama on-screen. It reflects the haunting gravity of the film’s near-death moments with funeral solemnity.

The excitement of racing has never been so thrilling or terrifyingly realistic as it is in “Rush.” It’s just when you think you’re just watching a simple racing flick that you realize that this one’s going to stay with you a lot longer.

“Rush” is on Blu-ray and DVD.

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