“Rush” tells a good story about an
intense rivalry between two Formula One race car drivers in the 1970’s.
James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) was the
classic P.R. version of the Formula One race car driver:
handsome, dashing, debonair----aggressive both on the track and with
the ladies----a party-goer who didn’t think too much about his craft, but
relied on guts, instinct, and native skill. (In
Star Wars terminology, he was endowed with natural gifts from The Force.)
He loved the limelight, the publicity, the attention of the pretty
girls, and the celebrity status which his success brought to him.
He had difficulty only when the racing team couldn’t get its act
together, either with securing sponsors or with technical difficulties
regarding the car’s engine, which our intrepid Mr. Hunt considered merely
boring details not worth his personal attention.
He once decided, rather impulsively, to get married to a beautiful
model, thinking that it might help “settle him down,” mainly to insure
that he kept focused on the racing, but she had a busy international traveling
schedule, too, and, well, he wasn’t really ready to give up the party life
for her, anyway.
By complete contrast, his primary rival
was Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), a serious-minded Austrian who took it upon
himself to learn the intricacies of the engine and even give instructions to
his team’s mechanics. He, like James
Hunt, grew up in a prosperous family who gave him a good education, and like
Mr. Hunt, disappointed his family with his interest in car racing.
But Mr. Lauda, like Mr. Hunt, had a gift.
He also, as he famously explained to a girl he’d just met (who would
later become his wife), had “an educated ass”-----that is, he could tell
by sitting in a car what needed correcting, either in the engine or with the
suspension and steering. He was a
dedicated student of his craft, and a one-woman man, and a humorless egotist.
He even worried about beginning to feel happy with his wife, because he
feared that would make him tentative on the Grand Prix circuit, where every
race was a calculated flirtation with a fiery death.
The rivalry between the two men was at
first a mere exchange of barbs, what we would term today as “trash talk,”
but they soon found they couldn’t ignore each other, because each
represented the primary competition for the coveted championship, which was
awarded on points, according to each success on the racing circuit.
In 1976, in particular, the two men traded places in the standing
frequently, depending on which one won that week.
Soon it was apparent to them that their rivalry actually brought out
the best in both of them, and a grudging mutual respect began to emerge.
I won’t give away the story of what
happened in the competition that year, but Director Ron Howard somehow makes
it compelling, watching race cars go around in a circle, because he has made
the characters around the cars vivid and interesting.
Yes, there’s some gratuitous nudity, and a bit of strong language,
and yes, the horific crashes make spectacular violence, but it’s a
relatively mild “R,” and the fact that it’s based on actual events lends
it more credibility. In a way, Ron
Howard-like, it’s a whimsical transport to yesteryear.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,