Day 308: Rush

Rush movie poster

It was movie night, this evening, after a very chilly and rain soaked day. Curled up beneath a heavy plaid blanket, I settled in to watch Rush. I have wanted to see this film, although I am not a big racing fan. I am so glad I decided to watch, as it was an excellent movie, based on true events and real people.

Rush stars Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Marie Lara. It is directed by Ron Howard, which greatly influenced my desire to see this movie. The action drama is rated R for language, sexuality, brief nudity and some difficult to watch scenes involving the treatment of burns, and has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

Set during the golden age of Formula One racing in the 1970’s, Rush is based on the true rivalry between British racer James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Austrian racer Niki Lauda (Brühl). Both men began their careers as Formula Three racers and the competitiveness between them begins immediately, and continues during their parallel careers. Both moved up quickly to Formula One racing with Hunt driving for McLaren and Lauda for Ferrari. The movie focuses on the exciting 1976 season, where the well known rivalry brought attention to the racing industry.

The two racers are so very different, in life, love and in their racing styles. James Hunt lives and drives at a fast pace. He moves rapidly through a progression of women, although he was briefly married to Suzy Miller (Wilde), and drives with a seeming recklessness that makes him formidable on the track. He is the epitome of the unruly, sexy, playboy driver. Niki Lauda, on the other hand, is methodical, analytical and while he knows how to get the very best speed out of his car, and himself, he is very aware of the risks involved with driving. He never wants to take a greater than 20% risk while racing. He is less popular than Hunt, has very few friends, and focuses on his job and goes home, avoiding the party life that carries on after a big race. He falls in love with and marries Marlene Knaus (Lara). His decision to marry her is as well thought out as his racing plan. He knows, instinctively, that by loving his wife, he risks losing more on the race track. And knowing that, he will not be as great a driver.

What makes this movie appealing is not the race scenes, which are amazing and action packed. It is the relationship between Hunt and Lauda. Both goad the other to their successes, on and off the race track. The rivalry between them is deep, and yet so is the respect. Lauda is the World Champion for 1975, a title he wishes to keep for 1976. With Hunt running closely behind him, in points, every race counts. At the German Grand Prix, Lauda, who wanted to cancel the race due to unsafe driving conditions, has a horrific accident that nearly costs him his life. He is severely burned on his face and head, and his lungs seared by hot fumes. As he is recovering in the hospital, it is watching Hunt win the next two races that helps him to endure excruciating treatment for his burns. Surprisingly, Lauda returns just six weeks later to compete. The championship comes down to the final race in Japan, with Lauda ahead of Hunt by only three points. Torrential rain makes the driving conditions very risky, and Lauda leaves the race after a few laps, watching as Hunt goes on to finish third, cinching the championship.

What a wonderful movie, done as only Ron Howard can do, and from what I learned on Google after the movie, very accurate. I really enjoyed watching the developing friendship between Hunt and Lauda. Although they began as fierce rivals, trading insults on race day, taunting each other, making fun of each other’s contrasting lifestyles, by the end of 1976, these men had a strong respect for each other. Lauda appreciated Hunt’s lack of fear, his fun nature and his capacity for bursts of speed, while Hunt admired Lauda’s analytical mind, his seriousness about racing and his endurance. The film ends with a voice over by Lauda, in which he shares that Hunt never won another championship and retired two years later. When he learned that Hunt died of a heart attack, at the age of 45, Lauda says, “I wasn’t surprised. I was just sad. People always think of us as rivals but he was among the very few I liked and even fewer that I respected. He remains the only person I envied.”

Rush Niki and James

The real life James Hunt and Niki Lauda

2 Replies to “Day 308: Rush”

  1. It is a great movie and I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I approached this one with some trepidation because I was a huge F1 fan and remember the 1976 season very well. I had feared that they’d misrepresent the rivalry between two great, but very different, men. Overall it was a very accurate portrait. It did miss some key details, but they have to simplify the story to fit the running time. Hunt and Lauda were actually much better friends than portrayed and actually shared an apartment for a short period. Not mentioned in the film was that after retiring from racing, James Hunt went on to have a very successful TV career. Of course he died at a tragically young age but he put more into those few short years than most could fit into their three score and ten. Nikki is still seen around the F1 paddock and remains a huge asset to the sport.

    1. In doing research after I watched the movie, I saw that James and Niki had shared an apartment and were actually good friends! I’m glad. They seemed to inspire and challenge each other, in many ways, on and off the track. Fascinating story. I always enjoy the movies that are based on real people and events. Thanks for sharing!

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