“Rush”: Ron Howard’s F1 Masterpiece

Kansas City – This afternoon, I went to see Ron Howard’s new film Rush with my parents at the AMC Ward Parkway 14 Cinema. I’ve been a lover of Formula 1 for three seasons now, since I was introduced to it by my Dad during the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix from Spa. Like the speed of this 2 hour film, my own F1 team support has changed quite a bit over the past few years, from initially supporting Renault F1 in 2010, to McLaren-Mercedes in 2011 and 2012, and now to Lotus-Renault in 2013. Of course, with the annual team shakeups, we’ll have to see where I end up come March, perhaps supporting the lads at Ferrari, perhaps staying with the Brits at either Lotus or McLaren.

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Anyhow, back to Rush. I really enjoyed this film from its start. To begin with, Howard is a master of painting his films with an extensive lavish palette of colour, from the blues and greens of that rainy 1 August 1976 at the Nürnburgring, home of the German Grand Prix, to an almost period ’70s look to the film from the more personal, more emotional scenes of the film. Being someone who is familiar with F1, I found the film quite rewarding in its ability to show another side to the sport that I’m not used to, from the top teams taking longer than 2.5 seconds for pit stops, to the pistons in the engine rising and lowering, to the roar of the engines starting at the waxing of each race, to the lack of Red Bull at the front of the starting grid, as is almost a given in the Age of Vettel.

The acting, with Chris Hemsworth as 1976 Champion James Hunt of Great Britain, and Daniel Brühl as his chief rival, 1975, 1977, and 1984 Champion Niki Lauda of Austria was also brilliant and quite believable. I personally was drawn more to Lauda than Hunt, as I, like the Vienna native, am a perfectionist in many respects, as my friends and family can relay. Hunt’s playboy lifestyle was in many ways his undoing, but also his way of coping with the stress of driving in a sport, which at the time took the lives of at least 2 drivers per season, a fact which has thankfully wained since the turn of the Millennium with further safety improvements on the cars.

I also loved Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for the film. Of his past film work, I especially enjoy the soundtrack to King Arthur (2004). His style of composition seems strewn with heavy percussion, and sweeping Mahleresque melodies and thick, rebounding harmonies. As a musician in my own right, his music represents a modern style of cinematic composition that I aspire to for my own films.

Now, as with any film dealing with the life of James Hunt, or the history of F1 in the 1960s and ’70s, there’s going to be a lot of sex. I noticed there were a few comments regarding the extent that Hunt’s sex life is described in the film, as the commentator was rather unhappy with these scenes in particular. Here’s what I have to say: it’s a natural fact of life, and for someone my age it’s something to look forward to in the near future. Yes, I’m not a fan of the extent to which Hunt “slept around” with around 5,000 women, but at the same time I find it not healthy to demonise something which is a necessity. It’s like demonising sleep because we should be getting more done in line with that fine Protestant work ethic. There was a great sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie about a father complaining to his son’s headmaster for sex ed being taught at the son’s school, the father believing that his son “just sort of appeared one day.”

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Lauda in practice at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürnburgring.

Rush is a fantastic film about one of the greatest sports of all time. Both as a F1 fan, and as a filmmaker, I adored watching this film. It wasn’t your typical sport film, following the underdog who goes through some sort of trouble, and begins to rise in stance to a great athlete. I’m sorry, but haven’t we had enough of these Southern USA set civil rights era sport films yet? This film was not even in the same league as those, it has different aims, different goals. There’s no real cause being supported, no character who is rising up from great intolerance. But after being bombarded by so many of those films, I’m glad for a fun, champagne soaked, break. Rush gives the American audience that opportunity to go to a sport film, and especially if you’re not familiar with F1, a chance to not know the plot before the film starts.

Hopefully some of those who are finding F1 for the first time will tune in in a few hours at 01.00 Eastern for the Japanese Grand Prix live from Suzuka. The Niki Lauda of the 2010s, Sebastian Vettel, is on the verge of winning his 4th Formula 1 championship crown. Whether it be in Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Texas, or Brazil, history soon could very well be made, just as it was in that fantastic rivalry between the Austrian and the playboy from the UK.

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