Vivid portrait of race drivers on the edge
Published 17/09/2013 | 15:49
TO truly excel in a chosen field, you need to be challenged, pushed to the limit of human endurance to find previously untapped reserves of strength and courage.
For this reason, sport is littered with bitter rivalries between incredible champions, whose desire to win - regardless of the consequences and the physical risks - inspires awe and devotion.
Take, for example, the battle of athleticism and skill between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe which electrified tennis courts, replicated in the women's game by the showdowns between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
Some of the fiercest rivalry, though, has been contested on Formula 1 racetracks. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost famously clashed in and out of their supercharged machines, compelling the French driver to declare that 'Senna wanted to destroy me'.
During the 1970s, rubber burnt and tempers frayed between two very different drivers: charismatic ladies' man James Hunt and incredibly ambitious Austrian speed fiend Niki Lauda. Their daredevil duels reached a horrifying crescendo at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring when Lauda's Ferrari burst into flames, trapping him in the inferno. An incredible six weeks later, Lauda emerged from hospital with extensive scarring, determined to prevent Hunt from claiming the chequered flag at Monza.
This incredible story of courage and resilience is dramatised in Rush, Ron Howard's superb biopic that charts the rivalry between Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) from their early days through to the glamour of the Formula 1 circus.
The two men have very different approaches to their craft. Hunt relishes the trappings of fame, proposing to his first wife, model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), on the spur of the moment then allowing excesses to poison their relationship and drive her into the arms of Richard Burton. Lauda is devoted to testing, working his mechanics into the ground to shave a few hundreds off lap times at the expense of personal relationships.
So when he falls madly in love with Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara), he fears the repercussions. 'Happiness is the enemy, it weakens you. Suddenly you have something to lose' he declares.
Directed with brio and turbo-charged by stirring performances from Hemsworth and Bruhl, Rush is a riveting evocation of an bygone era. An uplifting story of admiration and friendship purrs beneath the bonnet of Howard's direction offering plenty of high-speed thrills for petrol heads.
Screenwriter Morgan selects the choicest cuts of the facts for the big screen, including horrific scenes at the hospital where a badly burnt Lauda drifts in and out of consciousness but still musters enough strength to growl, 'Tell the priest to get lost. I'm still alive!'.
Howard's film pulsates with the same vitality, painting a vivid portrait of men who lived on the edge in an era when racing was genuinely a dance of death.