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Review: Rush

Could this be the best sports film since Senna (2010)?

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Rush (2013)

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde
Length: 123 minutes
Release: 20th September 2013
Rating:

I wavered on route to Rush. The premise was enticing enough: two mens' battle to be crowned fastest driver in the world, in Ron Howard's (A Beautiful Mind) thrill-ride of a true story. But outside the unprepossessing silver brick of Dolby Sound Studios, tucked away aside scaffold boards in the north-west corner of London's Soho Square, I dwelt on the actors I didn't know (Chris Hemsworth), the story I hadn't heard, and room I wouldn't be able to escape from.

I needn't have worried. Within seconds you are locked in. No pondering opening, quote from a great or greyed '70s footage. The engine roars into life and it's on: a battle only interrupted off the track with the precision of a pit stop. Nothing lulls. When Hunt, the brilliant, brash, British Casanova gliding from tot to track, meets his wife we move from introduction to marriage in a scene ('My team think I should settle down, get married, it will be good for me... You don't want to get married do you?').

The pace of Rush is offset but not lost when its other half and true star, Daniel Bruhl, steals every scene as Niki Lauda, the blunt, calculated, unrelenting Austrian maestro. Stranded by a roadside with his future wife in one of the film's best scenes, Howard plays on the contrast. With Lauda failing to hitch a ride, his partner takes over - plunging neckline, resplendent in white dress. The next car stops. But its Italian owners see only him ('Lauda! Niki Lauda! Man it would be an honour to have you ride my car'). Our woman, let in on her F1 driver of a hitchhiker, is disbelieving. 'But F1 drivers are dashing and charismatic, besides he's driving like an old man'. 'There is absolutely no reason to drive quickly. I am in no rush, it is only risk,' comes the stern (and important) reply. 'There is - I'm asking you to'... we then see Lauda isn't always governed by the numbers.

The two main characters define a contest made all the more incredible for being true. Dazed, spent, and disbelieving, I wandered out, leaned against a wall, pulled out my phone and checked an ending that must have been scripted. Watch Rush. I've told you little, but it's a tale better seen unknown.

Howard paces a film that ends with you tearing at your seat, unsure who to root for, watching one man's desperate, last-minute dash. Rain engulfs a track that seems to have no spectators, stands or lamps to light most of it. We can barely see, let alone the drivers roaring round at 220mph. 'It's over, you can't catch him' our hero (or anti-hero?) is told. 'What so that's just it? Fuck it.' And we're on for one last ride, with everything on the line.

Beyond the thrill, Rush is a compelling portrait of two men and two ways of living. We have little time to live, and F1 drivers in the '70s had less than most. How should we be? Focused or flamboyant? Behind a desk or a wheel? Both men ditched their fathers' paths - stockbroker, businessman - for a life more daring. As different as they are, their fearlessness unites them, and makes their story one of the greatest in sports.

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