Rush – Ron Howard and racing car porn. (Film Review)

Formula One racing is about money.  Nothing else. Besides being able (and wealthy enough) to win or consistently grade high in the lower classes, the racing drivers, constructor teams, track officials, organisers, and circuits are required to be holders of valid Super Licences which fall into the category of many thousand dollars per season. The cost of the licence increases as you win more races (!) so that drivers such as Lewis Hammilton paid over 242,000 pounds for his 2010 licence and Jenson Button paid just over 1.2 million dollars for his in 2009. This ridiculous financial culling of competitors is regularly attacked and the answer from FIA is always the same. If you don’t like it, race elsewhere. Despite the defense that Formula One “creates millions of jobs” (not sure for whom seeing as the bulk of people are paying to be involved) and that it is a sport, it is really little more than a giant advertising campaign. Formula One racing easily and regularly sends participating companies bankrupt. It would be an interesting exercise to examine how many jobs it has cost.

Lauda and Hunt in RL.

Lauda and Hunt in RL.

And now, as if this wanky-pseudo-sport needed it, Ron Howard brings us a souped up, glamorized version of one of the most dangerous years in Formula One’s history. James Hunt, surely one of Formula One’s most appalling personalities is buffed up and brought out of the dusty archives to try to make something positive out of his on-the-circuit rivalry with Niki Lauda.  For those of you who don’t know the story, in 1976, the notorious Nürburgring circuit, judged to be the most unsafe in the world,  where a driver was killed two weeks prior to the Formula One being held there (the 131st in the circuits forty-nine year history), was drenched in rain.  Niki Lauda, ahead on points tried to have the race canceled for safety reasons. James Hunt, encouraged his fellow drivers (that this decision was theirs shows rank incompetence) to have the race go ahead, and the rest is history. Niki Lauda experiences a terrible crash, is trapped in his car as it bursts into flames so hot it melts the helmet off his head, leaving his head completely exposed to the flames. James Hunt won the Formula One that year, seeing as Lauda spent the bulk of it in hospital fighting for his life, and it was the only time he did. He went on to become a commentator for the sport, gaining a whole new following because of the way he made fun of drivers he felt didn’t push themselves hard enough around the circuits.

RUSH

Ron Howard has a kinder eye than I, or he’s wearing rose-coloured glasses, or like the bulk of us, he’d just rather not see. Rush is a film for lovers of the sport, not critics, and for those who get giant hard on’s for “male competitiveness”.  I’ve flat-out rarely seen a film that so shamelessly sucks at the teat of macho competition like this one. In reality Formula One has far more losers than it has winners, with 48 drivers dying on its circuits in the 63 years it has been running (That is over 3 times as many deaths as the running of the bulls in Pamplona can claim since 1910) and I doubt they died for lack of competitive spirit.  James Hunt himself, supposedly spurred on by his competitiveness with Niki Lauda (that strangely almost never saw them actually compete), was only able to turn that powerhouse fuel into one years win.

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What the film does do, and does well, is give mega props to Niki Lauda, who DID stage the come-back of the century to heal fast enough to get to the last race, and push Hunt into his win that fateful year. Rush gives us close-ups of Lauda (Daniel Brühl) forcing that helmet over his still weeping flesh, and it is a feat that we know is accurately portrayed. Lauda’s comeback is one of histories most remarkable personal victories and worthy of an excellent film, and Howard does a great job to pay respect. Daniel Brühl is a very convincing Niki Lauda, looking almost exactly like him, and without my knowing Lauda personally, he seemed to portray him convincingly also. Chris Hemsworth also looks remarkably like the playboy dick-head James Hunt, and does a stellar job making the man appealing. From what I have read around, Lauda wasn’t so terribly liked (Hunt was adored for a ‘Fast-Lane’ persona he liked to wear) even by those close to him, and certainly this is the way Howard portrays him.  But to Howard’s credit, both the characters are endearing despite the clarity of their flaws and if you can hold your popcorn and fizzy drink down even with all the testosterone love, then its a very entertaining film.

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Much has been made of the camera work, and it is stellar.  This is a pacey film that cleverly keeps you on the edge of your seat even though we all know what happens and I really like films like that. It may be a completely biased glance at the fetish of Formula One, but if you keep your wits about you, a good, fun time is still possible.  Just don’t go believing all that phallic hype.

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