Movie Review: Rush- Peter Morgan’s Perceptive Script on the Positives and Negatives of Competition Makes for an Intimate and Exhilarating Formula 1 Drama

Rush-Movie-TrailerHeated rivalries, especially one between two equally ambitious and dangerous personalities, can often times have divergent outcomes depending on whether the competition has a healthy perspective, meaning one where it’s rooted in self-confidence to become better at one’s skill, or an unhealthy perspective, meaning one rooted in self-destruction where there are no pre-existing limits. This dynamic is exactly what plays out in the film Rush, a Formula 1 racing film that focuses on the rivalry between careless playboy James Hunt and rigid perfectionist Nicki Lauda that is surprisingly directed with masterful technical flair by Ron Howard and written by the phenomenal screenwriter Peter Morgan. Morgan’s script is what gives the entire film an intriguingly strong dramatic foundation adding to his biographical study repertoire of penning insightful dramas that follow ambitious yet flawed men as he did with over his head interviewer David Frost in Frost/Nixon and crippling egoist Brian Clough in The Damned United. If Rush were constructed into a racing car much like the ones in the film it would be undeniably sleek in design as the captivating editing combined with engrossing visuals keeps you aesthetically pleased while it maintains a powerfully fast engine in drama propelling it forward as two opposing philosophies on racing, life, and happiness collide with each other. Though the plot and its more obvious features appear formulaic there is a great insight in Peter Morgan’s writing that seems to appropriately focus on the characters, their beliefs, and each of their individual motivations that keep them risking their lives on a constant basis. Ron Howard isn’t a director with much of a visual signature so it’s incredibly refreshing to see him embrace the creative forces around him such as the new addition of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and putting more trust his long time editors Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill. Together the technical achievements mixed with Morgan’s insightful themes on the positives and negatives of competition make Rush an exhilarating drama that adopts a gritty intimacy and challenging honesty in capturing a particular sport reminiscent of Michael Ritchie’s Downhill Racer and Peter Yates’ Breaking Away. Though competitors can often times be blinded by their own passionate ambition in the face of fierce competition it’s clear that Rush wishes to take a more positive approach to how competition, whether it evolves the competitor or becomes a self-destructive force, can be an extremely powerful positive element in either changing or validating a perspective on life.

Rush very much embodies the typical format of a Peter Morgan script but truthfully there is nothing typical about the screenwriters writing because he understands the complexity of character through the lens of humanity more so than most in his field. To err is to be human so most of Morgan’s characters, often based on real life complex human beings, tend to embrace the whole arc of what it means to be a flawed individual, such as his careful study on Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and especially his other Ron Howard collaboration Frost/Nixon that tackled two monstrous personalities. This is the same dynamic in Rush where two greatly opposing ambitious men with differing philosophies on life challenge each other to be better at their skill for Formula 1 racing and in the end challenge each other to be better in their personal lives. When James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), an aspiring driver whose philosophy proclaims to live on the edge, ends up beating an ambitious rookie Nicki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), a rigid and calculating driving savant, early in their careers at a Formula 3 race it ignites a fierce rivalry that culminates in the dramatic Grand Prix of 1976. These two varying characters, the carefree James Hunt and the monomaniacal Nicki Lauda, immediately resent each other early on in their racing days most likely because each represent what the other lacks in the sport they were destined to compete in making it all the more poetic when they inevitably learn to respect the others passion and personal drive. It’s all about character for Morgan who allows each of these two larger than life personalities showcase their truly unlikeable qualities that define their personal character as they seldom reveal their harder to find redeemable attributes that define their professional lives making them fully sympathetic human beings by the end of the film with clearly defined passion, belief, and change. While Rush might feel as though it’s missing an overall plot it’s a film not intended to appeal to standard script conventions because Peter Morgan’s script finds the appropriate balance of dramatic insight, adrenaline infused racing sequences, and thematic contemplation through the use of character and nothing more. Using this fine template for a riveting sports drama filled with passion, ego, and danger Ron Howard was able to bring together a fine technical team in all aspects of production to deliver one of his more visually inspiring and authentically dramatic films.

More detailed review coming soon.

Grade: B+

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