For those who are old enough – and those who love Formula 1 – the titanic clash between Niki Lauda and James Hunt makes the current crop of champs look bland by comparison.
Perhaps never since has the sport produced such clear-cut rivalry between utterly contrasting characters.
So it ought to make for a gripping and thrilling drama – and it does. While it could have been a slick and flash biopic about macho race drivers, there is a lot more to this retelling of the epic contest for the 1976 Formula 1 championship.
To start with, you have an excellent script by writer of The Queen, Peter Morgan, which switches from the intense adrenalin rush of the race track to the off-track antics of Hunt – never far from bedding his next groupie – and the far more cerebral and calculating Lauda.
Chris Hemsworth is best known for playing Thor in The Avengers series, but the Australian actor acquits himself admirably with plenty of old-style English dash and the kind of animal magnetism that the real Hunt was famed for.
Likewise Daniel Bruhl is thoroughly convincing as the dour and singleminded Austrian who dismisses Hunt as just a playboy.
The terrible burns he received at the Nuremberg Grand Prix give the story its dramatic focus, as we watch his slow recovery and undiminished determination to get back on the track and win the race.
Ron Howard is not a director you necessarily associate with absorbing and memorable dramas. Not since Apollo 13 has he wrought quite such a powerful blend of seat-grabbing action and intense performances from his lead actors.
To achieve a kind of kinetic hyper-realism for the race scenes, some three dozen cameras were used by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, many of them fixed on the cars and inside drivers’ helmets. The results are such that you feel like you are in the car moving at 200mph.
Like watching an exciting F1 race but with a lot more intimacy, Rush is moving and brilliant from start
Review by Joe Gill