Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movie Review: Rush

I suppose if you play basketball at the "Y" you have some idea what it takes to be a professional basketball player: the physical stamina, the skills, the talent.  Of course, you know you'd never be able to compete at a pro level (running up and down that court kicks your ass) but at least you know the joy of a well-placed basket.

It's sort of the same way with me and racing.  Since I've driven on a racetrack I know something of the physical endurance (you'd be amazed), concentration, discipline, and skills that race car driving takes.  Oh, sure, I know I could never compete at the pro level (maybe the amateur level) but I have an inkling of what it takes to be a professional race driver.  I do know that after 20 minutes on a racetrack I am exhausted and that I gave the effort the greatest concentration I have ever given anything.  Anecdotally, a driving instructor told me that a surgeon said driving on a racetrack takes more concentration than doing surgery.

The common lament among racing fans is "When will there be a good movie about racing?"  Probably the best movie about racing is 1966's Grand Prix directed by John Frankenheimer.  The opening sequence is amazing.  But the film goes down hill from there turning into a bit of a soap opera and, like all racing movies, tends to concentrate on the sensational bits about racing: i.e., the crashes.

Last night I watch Rush, directed by Ron Howard.  This is a film about the true story of the rivalry between two Formula One (F1) drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  And I'm feeling conflicted about the movie.  It is, in total, a very good movie about two men who were completely different in style, personality, and motivation.  Lauda (as portrayed in the film) was very serious, saw racing as a business and driving was only a means to be successful in that business.  Hunt (as portrayed in the film) was a playboy, loved to drive, loved racing for the excitement of it, and had a joie de vivre that Lauda couldn't seem to understand.  There could hardly be two different men.

And Chris Hemsworth, who is best known for playing Thor in the Avengers movies, did an amazing job playing John Hunt, right down to the right accent (Hemsworth is Australian, Hunt was British).  When Hunt's wife leaves him for Richard Burton, you see Hunt's pain even though he is joking about it with the press.  I was very impressed and it showed that Hemsworth can actually act.

But, with the exception of one exciting race sequence where Hunt is trying to win the F1 World Championship and Lauda's horrible accident, the movie could have been about any sport or even business, acting, writing.  Racing was more of a background to the story.  Again, the movie did not capture what it takes to be a race car driver.  Maybe no movie can.

If you're not a racing fan, Rush is a very good movie about two men with completely different approaches to life.  If you are a race fan, Rush is a very good movie but don't expect it to be a great racing movie.

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