Set in the days of Formula 1 when racing was more about the sheer bloody minded courage (or stupidity) and brilliance of the man behind the wheel rather than the technology under the bonnet, Rush is exactly that – a thrilling rush of speed, power, adrenalin and excitement mainlined straight to your stomach.
It’s based on the intense rivalry between two of Formula 1’s more interesting characters; Germany’s coldly logical but technically talented Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, uncannily resembling the real man) and England’s hot-headed hedonist, James ‘the shunt’ Hunt (Chris Hemsworth proving there is far more to him than hammer-wielding Thor).
Their spats and personal competitiveness finally came to a head in the 1976 race season which was full of controversy concerning the legality of the cars, terrible accidents and nail-bitingly tense wheel-to-wheel finishes.
Director Ron Howard manages to capture the sheer, breathless excitement and terror of all this – at the time Formula 1 was an intensely dangerous sport with plenty of fatalities – and yet add a supremely human dimension. Lauda and Hunt are not simply a cold, humourless German and a heavy-drinking, womanising Brit, but complex, multi-layered men driven by personal demons, beset by doubts and yet absolutely focused on one thing – winning. It’s testament to the talents of all involved that the quiet scenes within the film are just as compelling as the utterly amazing race sequences when you feel you can smell that petrol, sense that heat coming off the engines and hear that deafening roar.
One stroke of genius from writer Peter Morgan is that the film is very even-handed; it doesn’t take sides and make Lauda the baddie and Hunt the hero. You never feel you are being invited to root for one or the other, but that you want them both, in their own way, to be the victor.
You don’t have to be a fan of Formula 1 to enjoy this film because even though it’s all about the racing, in reality it really isn’t – it’s about a battle of wills, about seeing how far an individual is willing to go in order to defeat a rival and about the all consuming thrill of pushing yourself to the utmost limit.