Blog / Book of the Month / Rush (2013) Directed By Ron Howard - Movie Review

Rush (2013) Directed By Ron Howard - Movie Review

Rush (2013) Directed By Ron Howard - Movie Review

Click the banner below to listen to audio reviews on demand.

Rush (2013) Directed by: Ron Howard

Written by: Peter Morgan (screenplay)

Stars: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde,

Runetime: 123 min. Rated 14A (Canada), R(MPAA) for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use


Most movies have a tag line, a catchy phrase that sums up the film and gives the potential audience a good idea of what they're getting into. The tag line for the filmRush — "Everyone's driven by something" —is kind of clever since this movie is about Formula One car racing. Yet there is another thing this film is about and the tag line points in this direction too. Rush is ultimately about rivalry, a theme explored in some truly great movies like Amadeus (1984) or more recently in The Prestige (2006) or Black Swan (2010). In Rush the rivalry isn't between composers, magicians or ballerinas but rather between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).


Much like in Apollo 13 or A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard is again in the territory "true story," but Rush is not a docudrama. Howard balances the nuts and bolts details with his desire to make an engaging film so don't expect everything to be historically accurate. As a director, Howard is skilful at making “mid-brow” drama, a film style that has taken a back seat in recent years. Rush is not a high-brow affair and often veers into film clichésthat will leave some viewers rolling their eyes. But many won't care since using clichés in this style of film is a kind of story-telling shorthand.


Rush also has many of the obligatory elements regularly found in a drama geared toward an adult audience such as sexual content, nudity, adult language and a couple very brief images of gore which in many cases feel tacked on. The film’s story of rivalry could have been told without these (or with fewer of them) and have proven just as effective. Much of what the filmmaker was trying toaccomplish by including these elements could have been achieved by inference and suggestion. This would have broadened the general appeal of the film. That being said, once some of the language and nudity is cleaned up for cable this movie will likely live on for a long time.


The storytelling style is relatively straight forwardyet it is atypical for a sports film. It starts with a strong focus on James Hunt which gives the impression he will be the central character. However, this is not the case. Along the way the film shifts gears to focus on Niki Lauda who becomes the central protagonist with Hunt as his foil. Many sports films deal with overcoming adversity and, while that's kicking around in this film, it is really the secondary plot since the main focus isset firmly on the two drivers and their relationship with each other.


James Hunt and Niki Lauda were famous race car drivers in the 1970s and the film mostly focuses on the competition for the 1976 Formula One World Drivers' Championship. Lauda had won it in 1975 and would win it again in 1977. Both men desperately wanted to win it in 1976.TheFormula One World Drivers' Championship is determined by a point system based on a driver’s wins and finishing positions on the international F1 Grand Prixcircuit. The movie follows the on-track and off-track rivalry between Hunt and Lauda as they accumulate these points toward victory.


Their rivalry started earlier in the F1 feeder leagues where they first met. Hunt was a hard-living womanizer and dare devil[1]  who at one point early in the film provides his philosophy of life when he says, "The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It's a wonderful way to live. It's the only way to drive." Lauda, on the other hand, is more interested early on with proving himself to his father and family who were bankers and politicians in Austria. While Hunt gets by on charisma and guts, Lauda’s success comes from his careful calculations of risk and reward, and superior knowledge of F1 car and engine design.

The rivalry theme might remind Christians of some famous Biblical rivalries like the brothers Jacob and Esau the sons of Isaac,[2] or King Saul and the shepherd boy David who were simultaneously anointed King of Israel. The reader of Scripture can gain a lot of insights by studying these Biblical narratives. What the film explores is something deep down in the heart of a rivalry — most are driven less by the activities and actions of another person and more bypersonal ambition and feelings of insecurity. There is a selfishness to this kind of behaviour. Keeping this in mind, what does the Bible say about rivalry and personal ambition? St. Paul in Philippians writes, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."[3]


Generally, both Hunt and Lauda come off as unlikable characters; they are humility-challenged and quick to remind each other of their poor character traits and personal sins. In the end, each character experiences personal growth as a result of interactions with the other and at one point Lauda says to Hunt, "A wise man learns more from his enemies, than a fool from his friends" Although this sounds like something King Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, it isn't.[4]What both men learn from each other is the ability to see the line between the need to win and the cost of losing. When life and death are on that line and risk is great there comes a time when a person needs to pull over and turn off the engine or risk losing body and soul, wife, family, possessions, reputation and every kind of “daily bread” God gives them.


There is a notable moment of forgiveness and mutual admiration between Hunt and Lauda following a harrowing accident at the 1976 German Grand Prix where Lauda was hospitalized after losing control of his car under challenging weather and track conditions. When Lauda finally returns to racing later that season Hunt approaches him and says, "I feel responsible for what happened," — and he was. Hunt had influenced a vote about cancelling the race due to the dangerous track conditions. His devil-may-care attitude and personal rivalry with Lauda got the better of him. — Lauda replies saying, "Trust me: watching you win those races while I was fighting for my life, you were equally responsible for getting me back in the car."


The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works."[5] While Lauda wasn't necessarily being stirred towards love and good works he was given the will to survive his injuries because of his relationship with Hunt. Does the movie make more of this than in real life? It's hard to say, but it looks like this series of events contributed to their changed perspective on racing and life. Does this mean they suddenly became better people and their troubles instantly went away? No. The film leaves them as rivals — closer rivals — but still rivals in their minds if not on the race track of life. Perhaps they gained a greater respect for each other, but they still remained rivals.As a Hollywood staple rivalry adds dramatic tension to any story and Rush is a film with its share of dramatic tension.


Is Rush the best car racing film of all time? No. Rush is middle-of-the- road Hollywood. There is some nice cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (Dredd 2012) which adds to the excitement of the race scenes,but for a car racing film there are not as many races as you'd expect. This film is really about Hunt and Lauda and their prickly relationship with each other and with themselves. Rush is a good example of how there are relationships people 'actually' have with each other, relationships they 'think' they are having with each other, and how frequently these don't match up. Underneath the standard Hollywood conventions Rush illustrates this Biblical truth: "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another"[6]— even if they don't particularly like each other.

Rev. Ted Giese is associate pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Regina, Saskatchewan.

[1]Galatians 5:19-21

[2] Genesis 25:19 - 34; 27; 28:1-5; 32 - 33.

[3] Philippians 2:3

[4] This quote is actually from a man named Baltasar Gracián (1601 – 1658) a Jesuit priest and the writer of Agudezay arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness).  

[5]Hebrews 10:24

[6]Proverbs 27:17