Two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard takes the daunting task of covering the nearly decade-long rival between British Formula 1 racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria’s Niki Lauda’s (Daniel Brühl) race to become world champions. From tracks in Italy to Japan, press rooms to extravagant parties, Hunt and Lauda risked death, fortune and fame in the 1970s and became international sensations in the process. With an undeniably effective immediacy, “Rush” is a solid, but rather cold, biopic about two equally detached personalities.
Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan split the time equally between Lauda and Hunt, sharing both sides of their stories, often tipping the audiences’ loyalties back and forth. On the track, Hunt and Lauda are mortal enemies, even risking each other’s lives to get to the finish line. But off the track, despite their professional disdain for each other, the two find mutual respect as their personal lives begin to crumble. By film’s end, the focus isn’t necessarily on who wins but how they got there, which of course adds a respectable amount of substance over action.
Despite Hemsworth’s and Brühl’s knockout performances, the film lacks significant emotional resonance, which tends to be the case with many of Howard’s dramas. While his movies, “Rush” included, are enticing and easily watchable , he tends to play it too “safe,” too “Hollywood,” leaving an unsatisfied feeling in the gut. Beneath the varnish, beyond the glamour of Hemsworth, period sets, race cars and Olivia Wilde, “Rush” is a rather emotionless series of left turns, which is disappointing since the story and characters are ripe for emotion.