Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rush (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies
Rush” Gives Us a Rush

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

A few years ago I spent an afternoon at the Indy 500 watching those fast open-wheel cars whizz around the track. So I was primed to see Ron Howard’s new racecar movie “Rush,” a high-speed drama set against the 1976 Formula One Grand Prix season.

Formula One is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). More technically advanced than an Indycar, an F1 racer can cost up to a half-billion dollars to build. F1’s corner at high speeds due to the large amounts of aerodynamic downforce, making them the fastest multi-turn circuit-racing cars in the world.

F1 racing features teams based in England, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Switzerland, and other countries. These 24 or so drivers are arguably the best racing car drivers in the world.

Back in 1976, emotions were particularly high due to the rivalry of two F1 drivers, Britain’s James Simon Wallis Hunt and Austria’s Andreas Nikolaus "Niki" Lauda. That competitive season is the focus of “Rush,” now showing at the Tropic Cinema.

The two men were quite different personalities: James Hunt was brash; Niki Lauda was cool. Photos of the time showed Hunt surrounded by pretty women; Lauda traveled in less flashy circles. However, both were fierce competitors.

At the wet track of the German Grand Prix, Lauda crashes his Ferrari in a fiery inferno. Horribly burnt, he returns to racing against his doctor’s orders after just six weeks.

In Japan, Lauda and Hunt face off again, only a few points apart. But Lauda pulls out after two laps, refusing to risk his life again. James Hunt wins by one point. How will this win affect Hunt? That’s the point of the story.

Ron Howard (the former child actor) began his directing career with a car-racing movie of sorts, “Grand Theft Auto.” Along the way, he’s made some brilliant (but varied) films that include “Splash,” “Willow,” “Backdraft,” “Apollo 13,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “Frost/Nixon.” Now he returns to racing in a more stylized and thoughtful manner with “Rush.”

The movie’s success hinges on three things: Great F1 racing sequences (check), a great performance by blond and handsome Chris Hemsworth as Hunt (check), and a great performance by dark and sultry Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo as Lauda (check).

You know Hemsworth as the Teutonic Marvel superhero Thor. But you may not be as familiar with Daniel Brühl, who played a German war hero in Quentin Tarantino's “Inglourious Basterds” and had a minor role in “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

Nonetheless, their performances rival each other in “Rush,” as tangible as that historic rivalry between Hunt and Lauda.

The film’s title may be more about the adrenaline rush we feel watching these fast cars than about speed.

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