13/09/2013

Rush

Sports movies are always a bit of a gamble because they can never quite recreate the thrill of an event for the screen, and that's especially hard when the sport in question is the boring-as-arse Formula 1. A bunch of overpaid twats in jumpsuits going round in circles has never been my cup of tea but Chris Hemsworth naked is Rush is less about F1 and more about a legendary rivalry between perpetually serious rat-faced (his words, not mine) German Niki Lauder and infamous British swordsman James Hunt that came to a head during the 1976 season.

With Ron Howard behind the camera and Peter Morgan on script duty I was expecting something a bit dreary with a heavy-handed message about living fast and dying young, and while things get off to a dodgy start with the clunky voiceover that unfortunately returns at the end, Rush tells its story amiably and is actually quite a bit of fun. Sure, there one too many dates and locations speeding across the screen than I would've liked - IT'S ABOUT DRIVING FAST, GUYS - but that's easy to put up with when everything else is as good as it is.

Obviously, like all movie biopics, some liberties are taken with story and information (Did you know the rivals were once flatmates? Because the film doesn't tell you.) but as far as performances go all the pressure was and is on Hemsworth. At 30 he's done more than OK for himself but unless he's happy living off the notoriety of being an old timey-speaking Norse God with a Point Break hairdo he had to show he could a) act, and b) carry a film as the lone star that wasn't produced by Marvel, and while James Hunt may seem like an easy character to play before this I wondered if Hemsworth was going to join the 'Actors Who Should Be Movie Stars But Have No Charisma' club currently populated by Armie Hammer, Jeremy Renner and Sam Worthington. Mercifully he doesn't, and not only does he nail the British accent bar one scene where he slips back into Aussie, he carefully portrays all sides of Hunt's personality that made him such a star.
Bruhl on the other hand seems to initially paint Lauder as the fun-hating antagonist of the film but you soon appreciate his all-consuming dedication and brutally blunt way with words. Example: when about to marry his wife, he says that if he's going to do this "he may as well" do it with her. And you thought Germans weren't romantic. And more impressively at points when Hunt is behaving like something that rhymes with his surname, Lauder's demeanor seems like a better option. Separately they're interesting but together they're fascinating because their rivalry isn't about disliking each other because they patently don't, especially when Hunt assaults a journalist who insults Lauder.

Rush never veers too far away from formula and bar the horrific crash scene that left Lauder in such a state they had a priest read him the last rites, it's pretty light fare, but even so it's far more enjoyable and engaging than it has any right to be.