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The story of the intense rivalry both on and off the track between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970s.
Rush review in a nutshell
A thrilling look at the glamorous yet dangerous Golden Age of Formula One racing, heightened by Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous, heart-pounding score.
Would I recommend you watch it?
If you like racing of any sort, or sports movies in general, yes!
If testosterone-filled movies with men striving to be number one while drinking, fighting and screwing around aren’t your thing though, then this might not be a movie for you.
Or continue reading for a full review.
Full review of Rush (with little to no spoilers)
Watched two movies last night: a documentary about Formula 1 called 1 (trailer below), and Rush, about the 1970s rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl and Olivia Wilde.
Watching the documentary is not a prerequisite for watching Rush, but F1 fans should definitely watch it for the history of the sport. I’m not particularly a fan, but it was interesting and illuminating to see how F1 racing has evolved, and what former F1 drivers and people involved in the sport itself thought of it and the risks they were taking.
More importantly, it highlighted just how dangerous F1 racing actually was back then; and each time they described the crashes that happened and their fellow compeers who died for their love for racing, it was heartbreaking. Apparently, after the seminal events that are told in Rush, the organisers of the race started looking to better improve the safety of the sport, because they were starting to broadcast F1 worldwide, and nobody wanted to see a race where the drivers stopped halfway because they felt it was too dangerous for them.
But it wasn’t until the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 — whose popularity made him like the Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel of his day — that the public really sat up and took notice of how dangerous F1 was, and the organisers were pressured to make the sport even safer. Since then, no one else has died while racing in F1.
Obviously after that, I went into Rush knowing exactly what would happen, but that’s not the point. I still enjoyed the movie very much (other than the fact that my theatre’s sound system was in eardrum-bursting mode, worsened by the movie being about F1). It had gorgeous stylised shots (re: rain in slow-mo), a haunting score by Hans Zimmer, and a charismatic leading man in Chris Hemsworth, who did the partying playboy daredevil persona of the actual James Hunt justice.
Daniel Brühl as the straighter, more serious Niki Lauda was a good foil too; plus, he looks like the doppelganger of the real Niki Lauda before his accident. The races as portrayed in the film are also as close to the real events as they could get without any Hollywood bastardisation to increase the stakes — at least from what I could tell — though I can’t say the same about their back stories. Though rivals on the track, James Hunt and Niki Lauda were actually close friends in real life; also, the dissolution of James Hunt’s marriage was skimped over too quickly, and Olivia Wilde’s appearance as his wife was too abrupt.
The sound editing could do some work though. There were parts during the races when I felt the (gorgeous, gorgeous) score should have been front and centre, but it was overshadowed by the sound of the racing cars. Or maybe it’s just the sound system being way louder than normal, and me having hearing problems, so I couldn’t pick out the score. My ears were feeling terrible by then, so I was half-covering my ears to muffle the cars, but that effectively muffled everything else too.
But other than the deafening experience, it was lovely. To be honest, when I first heard about the movie a few months back, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. But Chris Hemsworth — and the other supporting actors — did a really good job, and Hans Zimmer’s score was perfect as usual, and watching the documentary and going in with prior knowledge of the sport definitely helped. It won’t be an Oscar contender in the major categories, but I bet it will do well, with tons of F1 fans around the world, and the fact that it only cost US$38 million to make.
(Update: Sadly, even though it cost relatively little, it barely recouped its money. Most of its earnings, which isn’t as much as you would expect, came from the international box office, but it was a downright box office bomb in the U.S., earning US$26 million domestically — a figure that you might expect it would do in its opening weekend alone, not for its entire theatrical run.)
Where to watch Rush in the U.S.
Streaming services: Rush is on HBO Max, HBO NOW and HBO GO. It’s not on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or any other streaming services.
Where to watch Rush in Singapore and in other countries
The above links aren’t for international viewers, so if you’re outside the U.S., here’s a handy guide on how to find specific movies and watch them online legally.