Judge David Johnson get his rush by sticking sporks into power outlets.
Everyone is driven by something.
Ron Howard's finest effort also happens to be one of the very best of 2013.
Facts of the Case
In 1976, Formula One featured a legendary battle for the championship between Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) and Austrian driving savant Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, The Fifth Estate). The two jockeyed for position throughout, with Hunt making significant gains on Lauda, the runaway favorite.
While they waged war on the asphalt, the two went about their business in dramatically different ways. Hunt, the amiable, fun-loving playboy who parlayed his racing success into drug-fueled sex romps; and Lauda, all-business, unpopular to his peers, singularly focused on winning the next race. Both were fearless, skilled, and pushed to the brink by one another's prowess, culminating in a finale that only true life could have scripted.
When Rush first dropped in the theaters, I was intrigued. But a crammed schedule of chasing around a nine month-old met with my default lukewarm feelings towards racing movies kept me from plunking down the coin for a ticket. My loss.
Rush is top-shelf filmmaking, an exciting and flawlessly executed combination of intricate character study with balls-out race car action adventure. It is easily Howard's best movie…outside of Willow, of course.
I figured there would be racing thrills—and there are—but what really surprised me was the effectiveness of the character work. In fact, it's the focus of the film, the juxtaposition between two divergent personas, pushing each other to accomplish ridiculous feats of derring-do. You can't ask for more interesting characters than James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and it is their story that anchors the film.
Credit Hemsworth and Bruhl who deliver outstanding performances. Hemsworth is the most recognizable star, receiving top billing and prominence on the poster and disc cover, but this is a team effort from start to finish. Bruhl is terrific as Lauda, the cerebral Austrian, perfectly playing off of Hemsworth's runaway id. Much like their characters' dynamic on the race track, the two actors push themselves to great effect.
As with any good actioner, the race scenes are made more exciting after the narrative has been established. Ron Howard wisely saves the big-time racing mayhem until he's established the players and the stakes. When the inevitable F1 madness takes place, there is significant weight behind the tire squeals. Combined with Howard's expert direction, the payoff is blistering.
Also blistering? Universal's Rush (Blu-ray), a winner that kicks off with a strong 2.40:1/1080p transfer. Ron Howard couches his scenes in a slightly saturated filter, giving the production a tangible '70s feel, which looks fantastic in high-definition. The sound is even better, a blast of righteousness coming from an active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Trust me, when the race scenes throttle up, your neighbors will hear it. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a segment on Ron Howard, and Blu-ray exclusive featurettes—"Race for the Checkered Flag," a deep dive on the making-of; and "The Real Story of Rush," which includes interviews with Lauda himself. We also get DVD, Digital, and UltraViolet copies of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One minor biographical quibble: It appears Lauda and Hunt were a lot friendlier in real life than they were portrayed in the film.
Formula 1 doesn't interest me, but Rush had me riveted from the kick-off. Well done, Ope. Well done.
Not Guilty. Highly recommended.
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• Deleted Scenes
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