Monday, October 7, 2013

Jim's Movie Reviews: Rush

Rush is the latest film from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen).  It tells the (true) story of the intense rivalry between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), two Formula 1 drivers with extreme personalities whose on- and off-track battles were the stuff of sports legend in the 1970's. In a sport where a significant percentage of drivers is killed, on average, every season, the two figures rise to dominate the track, each fueling the other's desire to win, regardless of risk and personal cost.

The Good:  The personalities on display here are extreme, almost to the point of caricature, but neither the script nor the direction can be faulted for it.  To put it simply, the film does a good job of conveying the truth:  To take up this sport required a certain fearlessness not present in your average person.  To win, one must have been more than a little insane.  The dialogue conveys this, including some word-for-word quotes from interviews and other recorded footage, as if to let the audience know that the personalities on display here are extreme, but aren't "amped up" for cinema.  The subjects needed to be that way, or it wouldn't have been their story being told decades later.  Hunt did show up for interviews with multiple models on his arm. He did speak as if the world was his playground. He did take chances on the track that resulted in both wins and critical injuries. Lauda did walk onto one of the most storied racing teams of his time, blackmailing them for a spot by first building a faster car and then demonstrating that he could beat their best driver in it.  It's one of those situations where narrative truth could have taken a back seat, and personalities could have been toned down to make it seem more real or believable to audiences.  That, and events could have been re-arranged or edited for a more pleasing arc...but it wouldn't have been the truth.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle gives us some of the best work of his career. The 70's muted Kodachrome color palette was perfect, especially where integrating stock racing footage was necessary to tell the story.  The camera work both on- and off-track was thrilling, and edited to perfection.  I gotta say, this is a contender for "Best Editing", with cuts paced to build intensity during race sequences, and communicating to-the-point personalities outside the track very, very well.

I don't know who to credit with this, but this film needs to win several awards for sound, especially the way the foley work was integrated with the music.  Although there were some missteps and hokey-ness off the track when it came to chosen songs for montages, on the race track was perfection:  Engine noise overwhelms, then gives way to announcers, whose voices in turn echo seemingly right on beat with the music, and it all blends to a seamless whole.  I was thrilled with the race sequences in general, and due in no small part to the craftsmanship evident in what I was hearing.

The bad:  The film may cause feelings of inadequacy, especially among middle-aged males.

Oh, and some of the CG wasn't absolutely perfect.

The verdict:  Probably the best racing film I've ever seen...but that doesn't say much, as, let's face it: Most racing films are stupid.  If you like action and drama, go see it.  9 out of 10.

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