By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood September 18, 2013 at 2:34PM
Strong reviews continue to come in for Ron Howard's "Rush," which hits theaters September 20. Starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl (who generated Supporting Actor Oscar buzz at the recently wrapped TIFF) as real-life Formula 1 rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the film is a "virtuoso feat" (per Variety) that "breaks the mold" (per the Telegraph).
The lone dissenter at the moment is Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf, who writes that the movie "leans on symbolic imagery that's alternately tired and ridiculous...[Hunt and Lauda's] tale deserves more gas in the tank."
It's both a perceptive dual character study and, that rarity of rarities, a large-scale action movie for grown-ups, one worth leaving the house for.
Utterly gripping. Aided by two punchy lead turns, an Oscar-worthy script and stunning in-car footage, Howard’s race film delivers top-gear drama. A piston- and heart-pumping triumph.
Mozart vs. Salieri. Kennedy vs. Khrushchev. Gates vs. Jobs. Add to that list of epic clashes Formula 1 adversaries James Hunt and Niki Lauda, whose larger-than-life bout for the 1976 world championship title fuels Ron Howard’s exhilarating “Rush” — not just one of the great racing movies of all time, but a virtuoso feat of filmmaking in its own right, elevated by two of the year’s most compelling performances. It’s high-octane entertainment that demands to be seen on the bigscreen, assembled for grown-ups and executed in such a way as to enthrall even those who’ve never watched a race in their life.
Most modern-era car racing movies, from Grand Prix and Le Mans to Days of Thunder, have been far stronger at portraying the excitement on the track than at developing interesting downtime drama among the characters. But rather the reverse is true with Rush, which offers perfectly coherent racing coverage but devotes far more time to exploring the personalities of two drivers who represented behavioral polar extremes and drove each other to distraction.
It’s a credit to Peter Morgan’s screenplay that one can come to understand and sympathize with both of them, even though there are many reasons one might not easily warm to either one.
Rush breaks the mould; its racing scenes are thrilling, and the personal dynamics in the pits and away from the track genuinely intriguing. Here’s a Formula One story that’s not just for petrolheads. Of course, it’s not really a Hollywood picture at all, but a generously budgeted independent film. Rush combines studios’ production values and their penchant for action with British-flavoured storytelling. No coincidence that Working Title’s Eric Fellner, a producer on Senna, has a similar function here.
True to its title, Rush makes rousing viewing, even if the adrenalin thrill of the race sequences themselves can’t always disguise the cliché-ridden aspects of Morgan’s screenplay.
Hunt (played with tremendous brio by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth) is a reckless, womanising playboy of a driver. Early in the film, he is part of a team run by Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay), a flamboyant aristocrat who decides to take a crack at Formula One almost on a whim.
When it hits top gear, Rush is a thrilling, frenetic experience that immerses the viewer fully in a world that's equal parts grit and glamour, with admirable attention to detail and – despite a few liberties taken here and there – a determination to be even-handed about both its protagonists. It's difficult to say whether the human story alone is enough to appeal to those who aren't at least passing fans of F1, but whenever it gets behind the wheel it has a serious claim to being the best motor sport movie yet.
Rush hits a few potholes, but in the end it reveals the psyches of two men who only feel alive when they're cheating death.