This has to be the best race car driving film I have ever seen. Based on the true story of the British James Hunt and the Austrian Niki Lauda, whose rivalry fed many a media story in the 1970s, Rush focuses on this very phase of their careers and lives.
Born to wealthy parents, both Hunt and Lauda went against their families to pursue their car racing careers, and through their own narrative voices, both men's fears and motivations are unravelled through the film. They are as distinct from each other as an outgoing playboy can be from a reclusive geek, and the manner in which they pursue ultimate victory is also very different, but they are both driven by ambition and passion, qualities which unite them. And somewhere along the way, mistakes are made - mistakes, which cost them both heavily (although the price Lauda pays is far more obvious).
Hunt is played by Chris Hemsworth, who has never looked better, and has most definitely never acted better. He slips into the character effortlessly and surprises in many a moment with priceless expressions and excellent delivery of dialogue. He is instantly likeable as Hunt, which is exactly how it is supposed to be. Lauda is played by Daniel Brühl, an actor who has never disappointed me in any films of his that I have seen (from Good Bye, Lenin! and The Edukators a decade back to the more recent, and more American, Inglourious Basterds). Brühl makes Lauda a difficult one to like, but an easy one to respect. He grows on you through the film, as he must have grown on Hunt in real life. Watching them both on screen is a pleasure and every scene is perfectly acted, directed, edited and timed.
Peter Morgan's screenplay is very well-balanced - and offers just the right proportions of drama, comedy, style and above all, the rush of the races. The driving scenes are well-shot, but are also at times interspersed with actual footage, to push the adrenaline just that much more. The film is ably directed by Ron Howard, who I have always considered a very hit (Apollo 13, Ransom, Frost/Nixon) and miss (Far and Away, The Da Vinci Code and even *gasp* A Beautiful Mind) film maker. Here, there isn't a note out of place, a scene too long, an emotion too high-strung. Definitely one of the best films he's been at the helm of.
I wouldn't say that Rush is so good that it can not be missed - though in a year when film after film has disappointed me, this comes as a breath of fresh air - but I can say that it should not be missed. For pure entertainment and a lesson in sport history, I highly recommend it.