1. Arts & Entertainment

Review: True rivalry drives passion of 'Rush'

Chris Hemsworth, left, plays charismatic Englishman James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl plays disciplined Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s big-screen re-creation of the pair’s merciless 1970s Grand Prix rivalry.
Published Sep. 24, 2013

Movies about auto racing seldom have personality to match the spectacle, unless it's a cartoon like Lightning McQueen or a buffoon like Ricky Bobby. That isn't a problem with Rush, based on a real-life rivalry of fire and ice competitors, steered by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard with the dramatic velocity of a Formula One race car.

Like the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, Rush addresses a story so compelling, so essential to its sport's history yet inspiring beyond that it is amazing modern Hollywood hasn't told it before.

In 1976, two Grand Prix drivers as different as their race car specifications were alike, engaged in a seasonlong battle interrupted by catastrophe and resumed by sheer will. James Hunt was the fire, a brash British playboy who seldom passed up a party or tryst. Niki Lauda was the far more disciplined ice, an Austrian whose demands for precision on and off the track paid off with plenty of wins and not many friends.

Their competition was close until the Grand Prix stop in Germany, when Lauda's car wrecked and was engulfed in flames, critically injuring the driver. Hunt's path to the championship appeared clear, until Lauda's miraculous comeback, bandaged and unbowed, with just enough time to challenge. It's mythic, except choosing a hero between these two is tough.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) plays Hunt with scoundrel flair, striding into scenes fully aware of his sexiness yet not relying solely upon it. Even better is when Hemsworth reveals what's behind Hunt's cocksure smile; insecurities about trailing Lauda and a fashion-model wife (Olivia Wilde) running around with actor Richard Burton. In such a moment, Hemsworth proves himself to be the level of actor his kind of look doesn't usually portend.

The movie's finest performance is Daniel Bruhl's unapologetic bluntness as Lauda, and his subtle conveyance of jealousy the driver — whose resemblance to a rat is often noted — must have felt about Hunt's popularity and handsomeness. Despite their characters' caustic relationship, Bruhl and Hemsworth reveal a symbiotic bond, each needing the contempt of the other to reach another level of excellence.

Rush is also the impressive technical achievement its Grand Prix setting deserves, with Anthony Dod Mantle's camera caressing both sleek racing machines and hard bodies as they zip, veer and occasionally crash. Sometimes it's difficult to tell where archival footage ends and re-enactments begin. The danger of this sport is ever-present, not only to a driver in "a little coffin surrounded by high octane fuel," but the ears of spectators, making the sound department's decibel moderations more challenging. The '70s design and costumes are spot-on, and Hans Zimmer's musical score is another winner on his resume.

Howard hasn't grabbed hold of a subject with such passionate results in quite a while; it's no coincidence that his first directing job ever was Grand Theft Auto (the Corman movie, not the video game). Yet this isn't a movie solely for gearheads. Peter Morgan's screenplay, a primer in Grand Prix specs and garage intrigue, regularly adds gossipy touches, making Rush uncommonly well-rounded entertainment taking the checkered flag.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.


  1. Buddy Guy charms the crowd in between songs at A Taste of Pinellas in 2011.
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  2. Oscar-winning pop star Sam Smith, who is non-binary, announced Friday that they now use "they/them" as their third-person pronouns. On social media, they said that "after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am ..." JOEL C RYAN  |  Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
    The singer now uses they/them pronouns. It shouldn’t be hard for reporters to recognize — and explain — gender non-binary terms. | Ashley Dye
  3. An image from the poster for Magnolia Pictures' documentary "Wrinkles the Clown." The film is set for an Oct. 4 release. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
    The real-life creepy clown sightings phenomenon is back in a new movie. We talked to the director.
  4. John McKitrick’s painting, Dubious Optimism, is among the artist’s works that are on exhibit at Gateway Gallery and Emporium in New Port Richey. Gateway Gallery
  5. Dad (Joe Santerelli) is showing the children how to efficiently take a bath using motion study. As he explains about grabbing a "cake" of soap, son Jackie (Cam Kennedy) tries to "eat" it. Meanwhile, Billie (Rachel George, far left) is mocking Dad from behind, in the Live Oak Theatre production of 'Cheaper by the Dozen.' Kristina Mitten
  6. Epcot's IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, a nighttime fireworks production, has been around for 20 years. Walt Disney World
    The nighttime production will be replaced by a new show called Epcot Forever.
  7. A composite image of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, photographed by the David Richard of the Associated Press in 2018; and Eddie Money, photographed in 2004 by Jessica Reilly of the Telegraph Herald. Money died on Sept. 13, 2019; Ocasek died on Sept. 15, 2019. Associated Press
    The Cars frontman and ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ singer voiced a generation in distinct ways.
  8. On Tuesday, Pup will play the Orpheum in Tampa's Ybor City. Courtesy of Vanessa Heins
    PUP brings a performance to Ybor City, see work from the Art of Dr. Seuss collection at Syd Entel and three Tampa attractions observe Swaptember.
  9. Larry Duran, a 12-piece Latin band, will perform at the Hispanic Heritage Festival of Hernando County Sept. 21 at the Lake House. Vivian Rivera-Hernandez
  10. Chicken cacciatore with a side of rainbow cauliflower at FarmTable Cucina. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Chef James Kirby’s refined Italian dishes lean heavily on vegetables and seafood. | Restaurant review