Monday, 10 February 2014

Rush (2013) Movie Review

This week, I strapped on my 5-point harness (ok, my seatbelt), put on my racing helmet (ball cap), did some cool foot-hand-clutch-gear-shifty-stuff (which is weird as I drive an automatic) and raced to the video rental store to check out Rush (2013) starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. It's directed by Ron Howard.

Rush (2013) is, at it's heart, a fairly simple film. It tells the true life story of the 1970's Formula 1 racing rivalry between British born James Hunt and Austrian born Niki Lauda. There are, of course, deeper layers to the film. At it's core, though, it really comes down to the racing and the commitment these two men made to the "sport".

According to the still alive Lauda, the film is a very accurate retelling of events. This is a refreshing change from the norm in Hollywood where you get to see things like "inspired by" instead of "based on". Ultimately, though, this ended up being the weakest point in the film for me.

But first, let me heap a little bit of praise on it. It's beautifully shot, well acted and incredibly easy to follow. Hemsworth turns in his best performance to date. I hadn't seen Brühl in anything prior to this, but loved his performance as Lauda. The movie plays out exactly as you'd expect with Hunt and Lauda starting their rivalry early in the film and chasing each other throughout. There's never a time where the film gets so deep or complex that you can't follow what's happening. The locales are shown off to great effect and the racing footage itself is nothing short of amazing.

There we go. Now I'll feel better about picking what's left apart.

My biggest issue with this film is the lack of a protagonist. The portrayals of Hunt and Lauda are, apparently, spot on. That being the case, you should count yourself fortunate that you weren't hanging around either of these guys in the mid-to-late 1970s. Hunt is a self-destructive, pretty-boy jerk who treats everyone around him as a means to an end. He laughs in the face of danger while throwing up all over it. Bedding woman after woman, all while married to the beautiful Olivia Wilde, Hunt takes almost nothing seriously. He's self-centred and self-destructive. You can't root for him just because he's good looking because he's such a d-bag. Lauda, on the other hand, is the exact opposite (a point I'll get to in a minute). He's the smartest guy in the room and he makes sure everyone always knows it. Smug, arrogant, even the other characters in the movie call him an asshole throughout. He spends all his time looking down on anyone he feels is inferior and makes everyone else feel stupid for even existing. It doesn't help that his face resembles that of a weasel's.

So where does that leave us? A movie about two guys who are competing for a racing championship and an audience who doesn't want to see either of them win it.

Granted, director Ron Howard tried to turn it around somewhat later in the film. For me, it was too little too late. By the time the final race was underway to determine which of these two competitors was going to take home the trophy, I just didn't care. That's not to take away from the performances. As I said, they were spot on. But you can't spend 3/4 of your movie making me hate your two guys then try to win me over with the same 2 guys in the final 30 minutes. It just didn't work for me.

I mentioned the fact that Hunt and Lauda are opposites. This is readily apparent early in the film. Unfortunately, Howard must have thought we wouldn't pick up on this as he spends way too much time driving this point home. Not only does he establish this during the individual story arcs of Hunt and Lauda, but nearly every single interaction between them (of which there aren't really that many) takes the time to reinforce their wildly different outlooks on life. By the end of the film (yes, there's even one more scene at the end to drive this fact home), I was saying in my head "Yes, we get it. They're opposites. Please stop trying to make this extremely simple point."

For me, these two issues, nickpicky though they might be, took me out of the movie more times then I'd like to admit. It didn't detract from the technical aspects of the film. It just killed all the emotional payoffs for me.

All in all, a good film and an accurate record of what happened. And that's about it.

3 out of 5 stars

Rush (2013)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Feb 10 2014
Rating: 3

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