Reel Review | Rush

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After the disappointing performance of “The Dilemma” — both critically and financially — many thought director Ron Howard’s run as one of Hollywood’s top storytellers was coming to an end. Thankfully, he’s dispelled that notion with his latest film. “Rush” is a fantastic look at the real life rivalry between formula one racers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda during the 70’s. Although the film takes place in the world of racing, this is not a racing film per se. You could have the most rudimentary knowledge of formula one and still enjoy the film greatly, because Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan understand the whole crux of the film is the volatile relationship between  Hunt and Lauda, the racing is actually secondary. Chris Hemsworth’s and Daniel Bruhl’s performances are top-notch and worthy of Oscar consideration. Both actors become their characters and you could sense that the men were essentially two opposing halves of the same person, fueling one another to become better than the other. As a viewer, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the fierce rivalry! That brings me to my only confused caveat with the film. The pacing felt like a race in and of itself, as important elements of each characters’ lives seemed to be glossed over at breakneck speed. For example, Hunt was always considered a playboy of sorts, lapping up the thrill of the culture of racing both on and off the track. At one point he meets model Suzy Miller, the next scene they are married, and several scenes later they split up. Everything felt so rushed that I never had time to become fully vested in their relationship. The funny thing is, this cliff notes style of pacing actually works even though on paper it really shouldn’t. On one hand I felt cheated out of learning more about the character, on the other I couldn’t wait for the next element in the story to unfold.  Rating: 22 / 25

I’ve always enjoyed watching Ron Howard films, even as his style has evolved over time. He started off as a basic point and click director with very little artistic flair in the 80’s with films such as “Night Shift” and “Splash.” In the 90’s, he started using the camera more effectively with “Backdraft” and “Apollo 13.” But he made the true leap from simple story teller to true artistic director, during the first decade of the 21st century, by allowing the camera and visuals to accentuate the story with films such as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Frost/Nixon.” With “Rush,” his visual evolution has continued in what is easily his most stylized and confident film to date. The film has a washed out look, enhancing the sensibility with a nod to 70’s production values. He shoots the races in a manner both magical and realistic, utilizing unique camera and editing techniques to accentuate characters emotions and feelings. Best of all, as a viewer, you hardly ever notice these visual touches. Nothing seems forced or out of place and the action/racing scenes are always easy to understand. The film started with a specific style and never deviated.  Rating: 23 / 25

With the film’s subtext centered on Formula One racing, one would expect the audio to be top notch and for the most part it is. From the roar of the engine to the screeching of tires, the sound mix of racing scenes literally put you into the driver’s seat. The quiet moments are just as effective; dialog is crisp and precise and subtle ambient noises provide context. All together, it really makes you feel part of the actual story. The soundtrack, which ranges from Jimmy Cliff to Slade to Dave Edmunds, does its part to transport viewers to a time and place without making it seem like the nostalgic soundtrack was created just to sell records. The true highlight, though, is the score from Hans Zimmer. I’m a big Hans Zimmer fan, but I’ll admit that as of late many of his scores are starting to sound the same. His work on “Rush” may not be completely original, but he takes the percussive elements of his latest scores (see: “Sherlock Holmes” or “Inception”) and mixes it with his early guitar-based compositions to produce something fresh and invigorating. The combination of the two styles perfectly balances out the drama and the action sequences of the film. Out of the 150 plus scores Hans has written over his career, I feel comfortable to place this one in the top 15! Rating: 23 / 25

From beginning to end, “Rush” is perfect blend of intelligent storytelling and thrilling visuals. It’s refreshing to see a Hollywood film that doesn’t seem designed for a specific demographic, with its market share pre-determined even before the first scene is shot. Instead, this is great storytelling from film makers who clearly believed that the project was much more than just another movie. The story is as captivating as they come; within the first few minutes you’ll be so caught up in the real life rivalry between Hunt and Lauda that the races take on extra weight. You’ll find yourself gripping your arm rests fearing what may become of each driver as they push themselves to limit. “Rush” is easily one of the most entertaining films of the year and should be considered for several nominations when award season heads our way in a few short months. Rating: 23 / 25

Overall Rating: 91 / 100

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Dave Ziemer has been reviewing movies for over ten years. He is the founder and was the Program Director of SiriusXM Radio's Cinemagic channel.