Saturday, October 19, 2013

Movie Review: Rush

Rush has earned good reviews, and it is one of the better movies of the year. I was still surprised, however, at how great of a film it actually was. Ron Howard is a master filmmaker, and for some reason I need constant reminders of this. After Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man you would think I'd get the point, but I have no problem saying that Rush is every bit as good as any of his previous films.

The movie is about Formula 1 racers James Hunt, Niki Lauda, and their rivalry, which climaxed in the 1976 season. Now, I don't know anything about F1, or particularly care about the sport, but this is not a sports movie, it is a movie - you don't need to know how the Millennium Falcon works to enjoy Star Wars.

Story: 4/5 - Every time during the movie where I felt something was going wrong, the film would correct itself immediately. If the pace was derailed, it was because something needed to be addressed. If I thought they were getting away from the relationship between Hunt and Lauda, they would have another interaction. The film built relentlessly to a crescendo, and the payoff was very sweet. It reminded me a bit of Walk the Line in the way that it managed to balance the fascinating professional lives of the star characters with their necessary and revealing personal lives. A couple of small qualms: the filmmakers could have at some point explained how the points system worked, or at least how each driver had to place going into the last race. I found myself wondering up until they explained it shortly before the winner was announced. Also, it would have been nice if the other drivers were more present. There are a few scenes with other drivers, but only Lauda's teammate Clay Regazzoni got more than a throwaway line.

Writing: 4/5 - The writing was simple but effective, and felt very organic - you could see these people reacting in the way they all did, saying the things they did. Each line of dialogue had a purpose, and they contributed masterfully to the construction of the characters.

Acting: 5/5 - The casting for this movie was absolutely perfect. Chris Hemsworth, always fun, is the freewheeling, reckless Hunt, and pulls off the handsome, charismatic superstar athlete. Daniel Bruhl is the star of the film as Lauda, the arrogant, brilliant misanthrope with a permanent chip on his shoulder. There isn't any awards buzz about him, but of the films I've seen in 2013, I would probably give him the Oscar. Even supporting actors like Olivia Wilde (Hunt's sultry, distant wife, Suzy Miller) pull their weight and create a full world of characters. The only problem with Hemsworth was his intensity as the film ramps up. He's an excellent playboy, but only a solid inspired man.

Aesthetics: 5/5 - I talk all the time about cinematographer Roger Deakins, and extolled his work in Prisoners last weekend, but he is outdone by Oscar-winning Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Dredd) here. The shots are creative, powerful, and immersive. The sound engineers and editors did a great job of putting everything together as well. It's not an art show like Deakins puts on, but it is gritty, aggressive, and it results in pure spectacle.

Final Score: 90%

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