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Rush

Year: 2013
Production Co: Exclusive Media Group
Studio: Universal
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Eric Fellner/Brian Grazer
Writer: Peter Morgan
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Christian McKay

It's a good screenwriter who realises that movies set in the world of sports don't have to be about sports. We saw the same thing in Moneyball, which was a story about a guy revolutionising a sport by thinking outside the box that had nothing to do with baseball.

Despite the same approach in Rush I had reservations. I knew enough from the trailer to know James Hunt (Hemsworth) was depicted as a loverboy party animal as interested in chicks and booze as he was in racing (that he died at only 45 says something about his drug-fuelled lifestyle). But I'm getting really tired of the archetype in movies of a guy who can have any woman fall into bed with him with barely a glance. It's there, but it's thankfully more background to Hunt's character.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way it depicts the superstar Formula 1 drivers much like actors. Even though they get all the attention it's only with the financial backing of far less visible people (sponsors, owners, etc) that they get to even sit in the seat of a Formula 1 car. Like the actor who's completely disconnected from the process of filmmaking and editing that will give them their public face, drivers apparently had to beg borrow and steal, funds and sponsors to keep racing.

The most successful aspect of the film is the way it finds the drama off the track when there was sometimes little on it. In a fictional version of Hunt and rival Lauda's (Bruhl) final race together, the pair would be neck and neck near the finish line with some explosive climactic moment. What actually happened was that Lauda – barely recovered from his horrific crash barely a month before – pulled out of the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix. Beset by heavy rain, he declared it too dangerous, simply pulling over and leaving the race.

The movie isn't just about the clash between Hunt and Lauda but the clash of their methodologies, almost an investigation of the American versus the European outlook to life and risk. Where Hunt flies by the seat of his pants and thrives on the thrill of his devil-may-care attitude, Lauda is constantly assessing the risk, knowing that in any race there's already a 20 percent chance of disaster and that anything else like inclement weather only increases it. When he proposes cancelling the 1997 Tokyo race it isn't through cowardice but a mathematical approach to realism. Even though several drivers agree with him, it's Hunt's goading that turns the tide and makes the group vote to go ahead.

Like Rocky, the drama is by necessity punctuated by several scenes of the actual sport concerned, but aside from a few pivotal races, Howard shows them only as highlights, the results superimposed on the screen.

It could have been a clarion call to a more glamourous, freewheeling time when every aspect of the sport wasn't over-insured and over-computerised to within an inch of its life like it no doubt is now, but instead it's an even handed character study about different approaches to the same way of life.

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