‘Rush’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 9th, 2014 at 6:34 pm,

Chris Hemsworth Daniel Brühl Rush Rush Review

Rush excels in its exploration of the Hunt and Lauda relationship as well as how the iconic rivalry helped shaped each racer – both on and off the track.

In Rush director Ron Howard chronicles the true life story of Formula One racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) whose not-so-friendly race competitions culminated in one of the most exciting sports rivalries of the 1970s. Based on the years between 1970 and 1976, Rush juxtaposes the two drivers as they rise from up-and-coming Formula Three racers into full-fledged Formula One celebrities. Hunt is charming but impulsive (not to mention a drinker and womanizer), whose off-track life is no less intense than the time he spends defying death behind the racing wheel. Conversely, Lauda is disciplined but cold-hearted (and a master at reengineering Formula One cars), whose primary focus in life is winning – frequently at the expense of friends and personal companions.

After Lauda strikes a deal that enables him to jump from Formula Three to Formula One, Hunt and his Hesketh Racing benefactors follow suit and secure a spot in the 1973 F1 circuit – setting the stage for a fierce feud between the two racers. However, as the two men attempt to adjust to the pressures of championship racing, their drive (along with individual strengths and liabilities) leads to havoc in their lives and relationships – while pushing each other to be better, faster, and more dangerous on the track.

Chris Hemsworth James Hunt Rush Rush Review

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt in ‘Rush’

Rush could have been watered down to secure a PG-13 rating but Howard made a bold choice in showcasing the real-life danger of Formula One racing (as an R-Rated picture) – which, as the film points out, was responsible for (on average) two fatalities per year back in the 1970s. This isn’t to say that Rush is gratuitous in its displays of on-track carnage (not to mention Hunt’s numerous sexual encounters) but the film doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the hazards of racing and the emotional effect the perils have on drivers. While the movie does little to separate itself from a very standard biopic format, with plenty of familiar ups and downs along the way (as well as some very on-the-nose commentary regarding competition and friendship), Howard’s commitment to the subject at hand, as well as skill at capturing the excitement, beauty, and danger of the Formula One sport itself, helps elevate Rush above similar true life sport story adaptations.

Some die-hard racings fans who were hoping to see elaborate recreations of key Hunt/Lauda skirmishes might be slightly disappointed to discover that the majority of Rush is spent off the track. This isn’t to say that the film fails to include a satisfying amount of racing action – as some genuinely breathtaking moments are choreographed for the big screen with exciting visual flair (while mixing in archive broadcast TV footage to help keep the scenes grounded).

Daniel Brühl Niki Lauda Rush Rush Review

Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in ‘Rush’

Instead, Rush spends most of its runtime juxtaposing the numerous differences between the two legendary drivers - constantly reinforcing that Hunt is an impulsive force of nature whereas Lauda is methodical and analytical. Despite different approaches to driving, their individual strengths give each driver enough of an edge to stay competitive on the track: Hunt relies on fearless instinct while Lauda tweaks his car and memorizes track layouts. Howard successfully depicts the pair’s complicated dynamic of on-track enemies/and off-track respect, especially as the relationship becomes more complex – even if some of the later encounters are a bit over-loaded with thematic comparisons and overarching life lessons.

Brühl provides a memorable performance as Lauda – though his Austrian accent can come across slightly forced in certain exchanges. Nevertheless, many audience members will come into Rush viewing Lauda as an antagonist to Hemsworth’s Hunt, but Brühl is actually given a slightly more challenging batch of material and the success of Lauda’s psychological evolution (as it’s depicted onscreen) is a testament to the actor’s efforts. In many scenes the Rush Lauda is true to his legacy, a calculating and rough around the edges personality who is respected, but not particularly liked, by his peers and other associates. Yet, there’s a depth and subtlety to Brühl’s turn that ensures Lauda’s brilliance and humanity are not forgotten – despite plenty of moments where he’s abrasive and self-serving.

Hemsworth is offered a bit less to do as Hunt but delivers in his turn as the brash and magnetic British driver. Fans of the actor’s previous work, especially his high-profile role as Marvel’s Thor, will find the same mix of intensity and playfulness that made his God of Thunder a worthy on-screen Avenger. Still, at the same time, it’s a slight letdown that the role, either by design or execution, doesn’t allow Hemsworth to stretch his chops very far. That said, by presenting Hunt with dignity and complexity, instead of a spotlight to showcase his own acting talents, Hemsworth captures the McLaren racer’s raw and spirited essence – while ensuring that, on film, both the character and actor are on-par with Lauda and Brühl.

James Hunt Niki Lauda Rush Rush Review

James Hunt and Niki Lauda in ‘Rush’

Rush features a number of competent supporting performances from well-known stars including Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), and Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles), among others. However, few of the roles allow for many stand-out moments – since their primary purpose is limited to filling real-life people and serving as platforms for Hemsworth/Brühl to flesh-out their primary players.

Certain viewers might have hoped for a bit more racing in a film about famous Formula One icons but Rush still manages to capture the speed, intensity, and dangers of the track in sharp and poignant driving sequences that don’t overstay their welcome or devolve into sensory overload. Ultimately, Rush excels in its exploration of the Hunt and Lauda relationship as well as how the iconic rivalry helped shaped each racer – both on and off the track. A few stiff moments where philosophical musings as well as lessons on the value of respect and rivalry are heavy-handed but, overall, solid performances from Brühl and Hemsworth ground this exciting sports story with a likable mix of charisma, reverence, and speed.

If you’re still on the fence about Rush, check out the trailer below:


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Rush runs 123 minutes and is Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. Absolutely loved it. Bruhl was superb. It was actually very funny in places.

  2. I’m glad to hear this! I plan on checking this out over the weekend

  3. Here’s another movie I just don’t see the appeal to. Yet great reviews. I must be out of the loop.

  4. Great movie. But apparently Ben Kendrick thinks Terminator: Dark of the Moon is better… okay, then.

    • We say this all the time but… completely different genres. That is, I assume you mean, Transformers: Dark of the Moon – which for me, did most of what it was supposed to as a summer blockbuster. It wasn’t a 5/5 but I gave it a favorable review – and was also critical of plenty of things there too. Though, if the review you want to hold over my head is 2.5 years old, I suppose we’re not doing too bad ;)

      As for Rush, a 3.5/5 is hardly a negative review, in fact it’s “Very Good” according to our scale.

      • Reviews can be closer than they appear.
        Rounding is involved, at least mentally.

        The review scale moves in half-star increments and
        the equivalent of a 3.8, for example, might get 4 stars
        and the equivalent of a 3.7 might round down to 3.5 stars.
        The films reviewed in such a case are closer than stars say.

      • Kinda off topic here, but have you guys ever released the podcast-trial for Transformers: Dark of the moon? like the green lantern one? I’ve always been interested in hearing your guys opinions on that one! I havn’t listened to every podcast so not sure if I missed it

        Back to Rush, I liked it a lot but Im really into cars, so I understand that a movie focussed around racing does’t appeal to everyone. I thought Howard did a good job showing the personalities of the guys away from the track, and how they changed each other over time. I also thought they did a good job making it look dated, and will be interested to see making-of on the blu ray.

    • My point is reviews within a half-star are within the margin of
      error and do not represent a variance in reviewing standards.

  5. Excellent review, Ben. I thought this would be
    good and I am looking forward to seeing this one.

    Alexandra Maria Lara will get some needed exposure
    in the US where she is largely unknown, I imagine
    she is perfect here, and of course beautiful.

    • Cheers Rob. Hope you enjoy it.

      • Thanks, Ben. I’m sure I will after reading your review.

  6. Hemsworth “stretch his chops” what acting chops? Other than the guy’s body, I don’t see the appeal. And Bruhl is German so I don’t see how you can say his Austrian accent appears forced, its a lot more realistic than Hemsworth’s British one.

    I’ve liked Bruhl since I saw him in Inglourious Basterds, I hope he gets more U.S. roles, he’s a good actor.

  7. No appolo 13 or a beautiful mind but its a good outing by howard

  8. Rush was amazing! Mr. Howard hit everything bang on of how racing was back in the 70′s. The actors fit the parts perfectly, and the story line was intriguing. I would definitely say a must watch for race car lovers or people with the thrill of excitement and death!

  9. I agree Rush does excel in the exploration of Hunt & Lauda’s relationship, which is too fiery to be a friendly rivalry and too amiable to be considered mortal enemies. Instead it falls into a rhythm of impassioned irritation, healthy competition, serious provocation and grudging respect.(tinseltinecom)

  10. I thought the cars looked slow. I did not get the feeling they were going fast. Poor special affect.

  11. I loved this movie, was hooked the whole way through.

  12. Rush is littered with glaring technical errors! If you enjoy a Hollywood Blockbuster more than a Documentary you’ll enjoy it. Ron Howard has admitted that he overplayed the rivalry between them “for dramatic effect” which is fine – if that’s what you’re into. The trailers and gushing “reviews” from motorsport commentators give the wrong impression that this is a historically correct, motorsport faithful portrayal of the relationship between Hunt and Lauder. If you ignore that and go to see this as a Fictional Work BASED on a true story there’s a lot to like.