By Mayank Marthur, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 2, 2013
David vs. Goliath, Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, Chris Gardener vs. Life — stories that pit the underdog against certain defeat have captivated audiences for as long as can be remembered. We love it when our hero fights tooth and nail through all the blood and sweat to beat the terrifying circumstances staring them in the face. We see these stories play out and are filled with the eternal fire that endures the length of the movie before we get back to the normalcy in our lives.
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But what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Director Ron Howard’s (“A Beautiful Mind”) latest installment tells us the story of a symbolic clash between two ideologies, personified in two drivers in the fight for the Formula One Championship — and shit goes down.
James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), is a womanizer off the track and a hot-headed maverick on it. His sheer brilliance outweighs his volatility, which makes him the biggest talent in the sport. He lives each day as if it were his last, and he isn’t afraid to make every race his last. He believes that there’s nothing more beautiful than the thrill of coming close to death and cheating it.
Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl (“Inglourious Basterds”), Hunt’s counterpart, believes in a precise and methodical preparation off the track and supreme efficiency on it. The two drivers collide early in the film, and their rivalry escalates through the exciting 1976 Formula One season, culminating in the final race in Japan, where Hunt needs a win over Lauda to secure the title. However, there’s a lot more at stake in this story than pride, self-esteem and the title itself.
The men face off against each other in a contest that takes place on an ideological battleground. Hunt believes in a fast-paced life rocked with instability, where the only way to truly live is to live with reckless abandon. He is prepared to do anything anyone else cannot do — be it sleeping with women before the race, or exploiting the slightest of gaps behind the car in front of him to take the lead in a race. “Don’t search for men driving in circles looking for normality,” he tells his wife. In contrast, Lauda embodies that very normality. He believes in eliminating the risk completely — is as stable as Hunt is unstable — and that’s why the two hate each other. Even more than winning, each wants to look the other in the eye and say, “My way is better.”
The film explores male machismo through racing. The fast cars and sexy women are symbols of manhood these two men must flaunt in their fight for the symbolic and literal prize. While the film’s most impressive bits come off the racetrack, it manages to deliver some truly astounding moments on it. As the film builds closer to the climax, the races come in thick and fast, and the skill with which Howard commands his camera is commendable. The few last races, in particular, are full of suspense and wonderful cinematic moments.
The script does exceedingly well to overcome a slow start and develop the characters over time while focusing on the film’s themes. The actors execute fitting performances with a special mention for Hemsworth, who portrays the cocky Briton to near perfection. It’s a pity that Olivia Wilde (“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”) is wasted, as her character is ultimately unnecessary.
“Rush” is an inspiring film: One can’t help but feel motivated by two men who are polar opposites of each other. You don’t really know whom you’re rooting for. This is a fight that neither man can technically “win,” since it’s a conflict of perspective, but what a riveting experience it is.