I can't remember the last time I saw a sports movie that I enjoyed as much as Rush. What makes this film work as well as it does is it's focus on the dynamic between the competing Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The character study of these two men is what's so fascinating through the film. The way that they are completely different, yet equally matched, and drive the other to become better. Hunt's character makes the greatest strides throughout the film and is really the only one of the pair that develops much as a character. Lauda starts out with a very level head and a clear path towards victory, and pursues that line of thought for the entirety of the film. It makes sense that Hunt's more brash, charismatic, and volatile character leads him to change so drastically from the beginning of the film to the end. Yes he's still got loads of braggadocio in the end, but he feels more like an adult than the child that he is portrayed as for most of the film. If there's something to say about Lauda's character it is that he is challenged to adhere to his own rules against Hunt biting at his heels. He gives in to the desire to compromise his ideas in order to be more competitive against Hunt and it ends up costing him largely. In the end his triumph is in reaffirming his values and learning to accept loss for the greater picture.
Ron Howard brings an electricity to this film and makes you really feel the stakes. I'm no race fan, but this film pulled me into the kinetic energy of the drivers and the cars leaving me on the edge of my seat for the entire ride. His impeccable attention to detail is also worth note. Just take a look at Lauda's infamous crash placed next to Rush's CGI equivalent. Peter Morgan's script deserves a lot of credit for the tension felt in the film. The inevitability of the crash is foreshadowed constantly and the play between Lauda and Hunt shows the danger in every interaction. These men are laying their lives on the line for a chance at glory. My one complaint with the script is that some of the dialogue seems a bit off. I can't count on two hands the number of times someone gets called an asshole in this film. Is this the greatest insult these guys can come up with? There's also some dialogue that's a little heavy handed for my taste. For instance, when Niki Lauda first joins the Formula 3 series, we hear from the loudspeaker an announcer announcing that it is his first race. Then for some reason Morgan feels the need to have Hunt also point out that it's Lauda's first race. That scene just felt a little sloppy to me. The worst offender is the final scene which is just a regurgitation by the characters of everything that's been said much more eloquently and subtly throughout the film.
I was very impressed with Chris Hemsworth's James Hunt. Previously, I've only see him play Thor which is a role that feels very flat and boring to me. Hemsworth brought the antsy yet charismatic character of Hunt to life in Rush, though, and his constant struggle with comparing himself to Lauda felt real and earned. Daniel Brühl was also quite fantastic as Lauda. Between Rush and his character in Inglourious Basterds I feel like he's shown some interesting range. In Basterds he had a level of charisma yet underlying darkness and in Rush he brings a resoluteness that is admirable. Up against the loudness of Hemsworth's Hunt, he stands his own firmly and comes off as the more interesting one to watch, which is impressive. I'm excited to see him getting bigger parts.