Saturday, January 20, 2018

'Rush' gets a checkered flag for racing scenes, drama

Rush is a fantastic racing film. A riveting sports drama based on true events, it beautifully captures the adrenaline and intensity of Formula One competition.

Director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan successfully translate the 1970s rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) into an exhilarating experience. They recount the events of the 1976 season and explore the lives of the racers, including Hunt's marriage to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde).

Morgan's script gradually builds a mutual respect between Hunt and Lauda as they evolve and mature. The audience grows attached to them, and the potentially lethal races have more at stake because of this emotional investment in the characters. Such an attachment is not immediate, however. A couple of voiceovers in the beginning introduce Hunt and Lauda quickly with a lot of exposition and very little natural characterization. But the film's closing voiceover has a poetic beauty to it, because Hunt and Lauda have been fully fleshed out by that point.

The script's nonlinear structure emphasizes the third act's significance, and the dialogue is full of proverbs that help the film's messages transcend racing. Let there be no doubt, though: Rush remains, first and foremost, a racing film. While the writing as a whole is strong, the middle feels like one long racing montage, and the races are not significant until the viewer is fully invested in the characters.

Luckily, the visual aesthetics of the races stimulate the audience until the competition becomes integral to the story. Howard does a phenomenal job as director, using a variety of techniques to turn the racetrack into a work of art. Slow motion shots of rain falling and extreme close-ups of internal car parts get adrenaline pumping before the races begin. The viewer is further transported into the racer's seat by shimmering lens flares, blurred shots of the racetrack from inside speeding cars and cutaways to the racers' personal lives.

Hemsworth and Bruhl work well together, making the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda as real on the screen as it probably was in the '70s. Bruhl is far better at becoming Lauda, acting without reminding the audience he is Bruhl, but Hemsworth never disappears into his character this way. Hemsworth and Wilde both do flawless British accents, however. All the actors give competent performances, but unfortunately they are only acting for about half the runtime due to the large number of racing scenes.

Rush is a moving tale that explores how a sport can consume a champion's life. The races parallel the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda and emphasize the conflicts the characters encounter. Though the visuals on the racetrack are showy, the Formula One lifestyle can clearly be less than glamorous.

Mark Mukherjee is a senior at King High.

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