Between 1952 and 1994, 38 Formula One drivers were killed on the track in World Championship races. The story of the last of these deaths, that of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, was told in the BAFTA-winning 2010 documentary Senna and received wide critical acclaim. This means that Ron Howard’s new biopic, Rush – which recounts the famous rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and the devastating crash that left Lauda with severe facial scarring – has a tough act to follow.
Senna’s death acted as a wake-up call for the FIA, who subsequently tightened up safety restrictions on both the cars and racetracks of Formula One, and as a result there hasn’t been a single driver fatality in a contemporary Formula One car since. In the 1970s, however, when Hunt and Lauda were in competition, the nature of Formula One was almost gladiatorial due to the danger involved, and the trailers for Rush so far have promised to explore the mentality that drew drivers to the sport and gave them the courage to get behind the wheel.
The third trailer has just become available, and unfolds in a slightly different way to the extremely plot-heavy trailers that we’ve seen before. The main focus here is on the thrills of the race, the rivalry between Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda, and the “sexy” side of the film – which consists of a random shot of a dancer’s butt and a quick glimpse of Hemsworth in the shower with co-star Olivia Wilde.
While it’s likely that this trailer focuses less on the accident at the centre and more on the actual thrills of Rush in order to draw in the audience (after all, third degree burns aren’t exactly sexy), it also looks like Howard, and screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) have chosen to use the dangers of Formula One racing to explore both the psychological disconnect – the “lie” that drivers told themselves – required to take part in the sport, as well as the nature of the Freudian concept of the death drive (no pun intended), and the possibility that the dangers of the Formula One career only made it more exciting.
Sports movies aren’t for everyone, but the fact that Rush is based on a true story means that it should hopefully avoid the more overdone clichés. The story of Lauda’s crash and his rivalry with James Hunt is a fascinating one that’s full of real-life drama, and it looks like Morgan and Howard are planning to use it as a jumping-off point for an exploration of some of the more conflicting aspects of human nature.
Rush is out in theaters on September 30, 2012.