Horsepower Month is all about men on horses or in fast cars, and there are none faster on the tracks than the 900 horsepower beasts in Formula One racing (aside from some jet-powered monstrosities). But today, we return to the 70s, before the FIA made the Halo System (F1’s version of a roll cage) a mandatory safety measure, a time when F1 drivers semi-regularly get injured or worse, killed, on race tracks.
Ron Howard’s 2013 motorsport movie Rush is loosely based on the story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt—one of the most famous rivalries in F1 history—and centers on their competition until the duo’s final battle for 1976 Formula One world title. For those who were not familiar with the history of these two drivers, simply think of them as the Spock and James T. Kirk of racing—an unlikely pairing of an unemotional pragmatist and a hothead, and just like these two beloved characters, they each held immense respect for each other despite their differences.
Because a single F1 race can easily take over an hour, and Rush had to cover two seasons’ worth of races, the movie could only show most of them in the form of montage. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a detriment to Rush’s ability to excite the viewers; the film has plenty of dramatic tension to spare. The movie spends ample time off the tracks to characterize Hunt and Lauda by setting up their background and philosophy. At times, Rush resembles a biopic more than a sports history film. What it does best is weave between the story of the two protagonists, and when their paths converge once again on the race track, one cannot resist rooting for either of them.
When Rush does focus on the key races, the movie successfully recreates the exciting energy at a live audience. The ever-enthusiastic newscasters also play a huge part in turning the races into a heart-pounding experience; it’s hard not to get excited over the heated commentaries. Cars in these races have a great sense of speed, but unfortunately Rush does not delve into the more tactical aspects of the game. The healthy rumbles of the engines is a feast for the ears.
The mighty Thor Chris Hemsworth was born to play James Hunt (coincidentally he also played as Kirk’s father in the 2009 soft-reboot of Star Trek), the infamous playboy racecar driver with a headful of wavy gold mane. On the tracks, Hunt is known for being an aggressive speed demon; his driving style earned him the moniker of “Hunt the Shunt (meaning crash)” before he even entered F1. When he is not going 300 km/h, Hunt was known for his indulgence in drugs, alcohol, and sex. To sum up, James Hunt is the quintessential romantic image of a sexy bad boy living on the edge. But how did a guy like him become friends with Niki Lauda?
Daniel Brühl’s Niki Lauda is the ice to James Hunt’s fire. Cold and direct, the self-made Austrian driver is an iron-willed entrepreneur. The mutual respect came from both Hunt and Lauda’s talents as drivers as well as their persistence. They were both incredibly competitive and driven (get it?) athletes. Lauda may be unapproachable, but what he went through was enough to earn everyone’s respect, including Hunt’s. Spoiler alert for real life: Lauda had a near-fatal crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring circuit. He sustained burns on his head and hands and damage to his lungs from inhaling the toxic fume from his burning car. Lauda’s return to the tracks—against the advice of his doctor—in just forty-two days is a testament to his steely resolve.
Rush is an adrenaline-filled motorsport movie with a human touch. It boasts great action and sound design that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the fantastic cast gives its best at delivering the larger-than-life story. Rush is hard not to love.