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Rush by Ron Howard

February 2, 2014

rush

¨He is a viveur, a danseur and in his spare time he is a racing driver¨ this is how Enzo Ferrari defined Clay Regazzoni – the Swiss racing driver who was Lauda’s teammate at Ferrari – and in a way a definition like this would fit the profile of most of the Formula 1 racing drivers in the Seventies, the time where Rush is set and with most of its action taking place in 1976, the year of the Nurburgring, the year of the season long duel for the World Championship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, with Lauda maybe being the only guy on the circuit who was a full time racing driver, so even if you know nothing about Formula 1 and the names I have mentioned it is easy to guess that the interest of Rush is depicting the conflicting personalities of his main characters: two opposing ways to conceive life and no matter if you like car races or not Howard will push you to take sides and he has done a subtle enough job to make it not an easy choice: Hunt the playboy will reveal himself a much more decent guy than you would expect while Lauda the computer-man  will reveal himself an emotional and audacious competitor. Nonetheless as it is always the case with films dealing with real life characters – especially larger than life public figures like these – our reaction to the way they are portrayed on the cinema screen will depend on our degree of knowledge/ignorance of these real life stories.

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I have enjoyed watching Rush but I still don’t know why I have liked it, I know these stories by heart, I know who Harvey Postlethwaite was, I know that the unidentified guy named Luca has to be Ferrari’s team manager at the time and Ferrari’s actual Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Scheckter’s six-wheels Tyrrell almost made me cry: how much have I liked the film and how much have I liked the reawakening of so many childhood memories? Rush’s main virtue is the careful reconstruction of the period, the cars, the places, the looks everything feels real, alas the actors aren’t up to the task: James Hunt was much more macho and beautiful than Chris Hemsworth, while Lauda had a fascinating personality and character that cannot be replaced by the abuse of prosthetics – quite ironic considering that the real Lauda has always refused them wearing proudly his scarred face – we witness here. In real life Hunt wasn’t the fastest racing driver around – that was Ronnie Peterson – and Niki Lauda is a legend, after remaining trapped for more than a minute in his burning Ferrari on August 1, one month later ignoring the advise of the doctors he returned to the races in Monza: this is the stuff of legend, Lauda has been one of the last Nuvolari. Another bad choice is to show a guy playing Enzo Ferrari, when a director decides to bring on the screen such legendary characters he is working to ruin his own film. But I guess I am being unfair here, Rush is a well executed film by a director who clearly loves the subject, there is passion in Rush, it is not a masterpiece, it is not a faithful account of what happened in Formula 1 in 1976, but it is an engaging and dynamic interpretation of it and a film that easily overtakes his own shortcomings, James Hunt style I’d say.

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One Comment
  1. “In real life Hunt wasn’t the fastest racing driver around – that was Ronnie Peterson”

    You’re right, man! Ronnie is one of my personal heroes!

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