REVIEW: “Rush”


I’m not a racing fan so the story of Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda was new to me. Ron Howard’s biographical sports film “Rush” tells the story of these two men and the rivalry that grew between them. Filmed with flash and gusto, “Rush” mixes common sports movie techniques with its more serious dramatic focus. The result is a film centered around an intriguing relationship between two racers that generally plays out fairly well. Unfortunately there are some kinks and wrinkles which keep the movie from being as smooth as it should have been.

Folks in Europe will be much more familiar with the story of Hunt and Lauda. These two championship racers were as different as night and day. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a talented driver who is more interested in the excesses of alcohol and sex that accompany his fame. He flies by the seat of his pants both on and off the track. Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) has no interest in accolades or fame. He is a by-the-book fellow who takes a cold and calculated approach to everything he does from racing to relationships. According to the movie Hunt and Lauda get off on the wrong foot and their drastically different approaches to racing and life constantly clash.


Interestingly neither of these characters are particularly likable. Peter Morgan’s script unveils their strong competitive wills which are inseparably tied to their inflated egos. They just show their haughtiness in different ways. But their rivalry takes a different turn during the 1976 Formula One season after Lauda is involved in a fiery crash. He is severely burned and faced with an excruciating rehabilitation. During this time Hunt is able to take the season points lead and looks to be on track for the championship. But only 42 days after his accident, Lauda attempts a comeback that defies all odds.

“Rush” offers a fascinating and personal story and we get hearty bites of it here and there. But there is a really odd structure to the film as a whole. A big hunk of the movie deals more with their individual rises to Formula One status. Sprinkled in are some brief run-ins they have and of course the races themselves. This does a good job of defining them and their vices but it also takes a lot of shortcuts. For example the two main female characters are shoehorned in and not given much to do at all. Olivia Wilde plays a supermodel who suddenly marries Hunt but later develops an off-screen romance with Richard Burton after being shunned by her husband. It’s a paper-thin side story. Equally underdeveloped is Lauda’s quick marriage to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara). The couple do get a few good moments but she is mostly reserved to standing at his races looking terribly concerned.


Speaking of those races, they are some of the most exhilarating race sequences ever put on screen. Ron Howard’s energetic and pulse-pounding perspectives truly are amazing to watch. Also a ton of credit has to go to the editing team of Daniel Hanley and Mike Hill. Far too often race or car chase sequences are chopped up into pieces making it almost impossible to discern what is going on. Hanley and Hill never make that mistake. Howard’s vigorous touches and technical flare gels perfectly with his editors’ approach to create some truly intense racing action. Howard also has a ton of fun playing in the whole 1970s period whether it’s the hair, the wardrobes, or the atmosphere. It looks great and I loves all of that stuff.

But back to the film’s structure. Lauda’s wreck and attempted recovery (which features prominently in the trailer and in the real life story) feels under-served. It does play an important part in changing the direction of the plot but it felt like there was much more there to explore. There were also several sports movie gimmicks that are frequently used. For example most of the races are shown with the voiceover of a highly dramatic announcer. The amazing visuals reveal to us the immense danger, the sometimes terrible weather conditions, etc. But that doesn’t stop the announcer from ratcheting up ever ounce of drama.


The real statement of the film comes from Chris Hemsworth. He more known for his role as the musclebound hammer-wielding Thor from the Marvel movies, but here he shows a definite range that may come as a surprise to some people. He jumps headfirst into Hunt’s life of overindulgence and he never oversells it. Brühl clearly is working hard but ultimately I think he is shortchanged by Peter Morgan’s script. He definitely has some strong moments but more often I found him to be a bit dull. It’s hard to put the bulk of the blame on him though.

Overall “Rush” is a sports biopic that doesn’t full utilize the intriguing story it is based on. That’s not to say it’s a bad film. The are some good dramatic moments and the race scenes are things of fuel-injected beauty. But there are some narative hiccups and I just can’t help but think the film could have better used its time. For example, maybe a few less music video-styled sex scenes and more time spent on the two main female characters. I just feel that there is more to this story that could have been told and ultimately that left me wanting.


39 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Rush”

  1. Great review, Keith. I totally agree on every point, even made many of them in my own review. The women are non-characters. Even the men are underdeveloped, and as good as the actors are, the screenplay simply doesn’t help them. But the racing sequences are good enough to make this always entertaining. It just could have been so much better.

    That was wordy. The short version: I agree.

    • Glad we agree. Doesn’t it seem like the movie could have utilized its running time better. It wastes to much time on underdeveloped characters and angles. I still liked the movie but couldn’t help but feel it should’ve been better.

      • That, I think, is the perfect summation. I gave it a C+, making above average and entertaining. But I with you – it doesn’t fulfill its potential.

  2. Good review Keith. As a director, Ron Howard has never shocked me or surprised me in any way, but he did a nice job here. He gave us two guys, who clearly love their sport, but clearly also have many faults that factor into their profession as well. Makes it all the more compelling, as well as interesting.

    • For me Howard has some great films but also some real stinkers. I enjoyed some of his older flicks like Splash and Cocoon. But I really loved A Beautiful Mind, much better than Rush I’m afraid.

  3. Well we can’t be in synchronicity on all films and here is one where we disagree a bit. In My opinion this was a better film than any of the 9 pictures we just had honoured with nominations at the Oscars. The women’s roles are thin because they are not the center of the story. The incidents you thought were speed through are in part done that way because that was what Lauda did. The sense of competition was palatable. The actors were perfectly cast and the performances matched the casting. The racing segments never got boring despite my own lack of familiarity with the story. On my end of the year list I had this second only to Mud. This was also a soundtrack that enhanced the story and kept me on edge. We all see things through different prisons and my rose colored view was enhanced by complete surprise at how much I reacted to the movie. It knocked me for a loop and I shouted out loud in the theater, “That was f***ing great” and I’m not inclined to curse out loud much less in public. The most neglected great film of 2013.

    By the way, how was Rear Window?

    • I understand that the women weren’t central characters but I believe they could have been handled a lot better. And if they were going to gloss over them I wish they would have just used that time to develop the rivalry more or spend more time with Lauda’s recovery and the difficulty of it. I dunno. I just thought it was a bit flat at times and Bruhl suffered the most due to it.

      As for Rear Window, tremendous! It was great to see it again and especially on the big screen!

  4. I have to admit that I totally fell in love with this one and the excitement of the races and the rivalry kind of bypassed the flaws for me.

  5. Your review was nicely done, Keith. I liked the camera work on the tires spinning in the rain, the cameras in the cockpit of the car, and I liked the acting of the two principal actors. But the film lacked a script worth listening to and so I was grew bored waiting for something to happen.

    • The script is where my problems were also. I did stay interested throughout even though there were speed bumps along the way. But ultimately its a movie that I felt could have been great. It just spun its wheels in too many places.

      (Did ya catch what I did there – speed bumps, spinning wheels? har, har)

    • Thanks. I don’t think his performance is “bad”. I think he comes across as a bit boring at times mainly because of the script. I think it could have helped him out a bit.

  6. Nice review mate. This was my favourite film of last year, purely because of how excited I was when I was watching it. I thought Howard absolutely nailed the excitement of F1 and both Hemsworth and Bruhl were brilliant. I definitely thought it should have had an Oscar nom for editing too, they did a great job with that.

    • I can’t really argue with any of the points you made. I think all of those things are why I liked it. I just felt the script hit a few potholes. The editing was amazing and the race scenes were some of the best I’ve seen.

      I bet you were familiar with their rivalry, right?

  7. I liked the film a bit more than you did, I like flicks about rivalry and this one was just so entertaining. I’m glad you liked Hemsworth’s performance, I know many people disliked his work here but I thought he did very well.

  8. Hi Keith! Sorry I missed your review yesterday, just too swamped to make the rounds. I think both Hemsworth and Bruhl are good here but Bruhl is exceptional, which was why I had hoped he had been nominated by Oscar this year. He’s THAT good IHMO.

    • I’m really interested in hearing your opinion on the female roles? I definitely understand that they are side characters, but I think they came across as just filler space. I would have loved to have seen more of them or less so that more time could go towards the rivalry. What are your thoughts

      • I think the gal playing Lauda’s wife is NOT just a filler, she may not have a lot of screen time but she’s the reason of some of his major decisions. But the girls in Hunt’s life felt more like ‘fillers’ because that’s perhaps how Hunt himself treated them more as such. That’s my humble opinion anyway. Btw, check your DM 🙂

      • No I definitely respect your take on it. Lauda’s wife seemed to be reserved to standing near the pitstops looking worried. Their scenes away from the race were very good but I wanted more of them.

        Olivia Wilde just pops up, marries Thor, has an affair with Richard Burton, then vanishes. LOL!

  9. Great review, Keith. Glad you enjoyed it. Honestly, after those horrible Dan Brown films he made, I was beginning to wonder if Ron Howard had lost the plot a bit. But I thought this film was a thunderous return to form for the man, and easily one of his best to-date (if not THE best). I thought Daniel Bruhl was the best part of the whole thing, and Hemsworth carried his own weight as well. In all, a terrific film, and you’re right, you don’t even have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate it.

    • Thanks man. I don’t think this one is up there with “A Beautiful Mind” but it is head and shoulders above that Da Vinci Code garbage. I really hated that flick!

  10. Great review, man. This wasn’t for me at all, though. I couldn’t see past Howard’s cliched approach. I actually found the film laughably bad at times. A big disappointment!

    • I remember you weren’t a fan at all. On the other hand there were some who loved it. I really went back and forth between 3.5 and 3 stars. I’m still not certain of my rating. I had some fun with it but I definitely didn’t love it like many do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s