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Ron Howard is and remains a master of simple but not oversimplified entertainment cinema. I think him and Zemeckis share that title, I do not see anybody else mastering the craft of catering to a widest possible audience, while hardly ever assuming that this audience is stupid. “Rush” is another bit of evidence to that theory: it is about people spending their lives driving around tracks that are not safe in cars that are too fast. Despite what could have happened in such a movie (and has happened before), the drivers and most of the characters surrounding them appear as human beings, driven by human emotions and motivations.

On some level, you could even call “Rush” an art house movie of sorts. There is sufficient use of German and Italian spoken in the film that it will probably qualify for best non-English language movie at the next Academy Awards. I was impressed that they chose to stick with the multitude of languages present in the international Formula One circus rather than taking the dumb Tom “Stauffenberg” Cruise  route and deciding that everybody around the world has to speak English with a stupid accent. Also, interestingly, there are some  references to German cultural life and celebrities that I was pretty sure will be lost on anybody non-German. Party at the house of Curt Juergens? Niki Lauda was certainly impressed to find out, but given that “Rush” is obviously targeted at a very broad international market, I would not be surprised if most audiences were scratching their heads, trying to figure out why this scene was there, and why we should consider it important to Lauda.

It is this level of attention to detail that is the fun about “Rush”: not just the names of the drivers swarming the lanes, but also the advertising on the cars, the music they listen to, the drinks they have, and the houses they live in. This has certainly be a dream job for a team of production designers, and as far as I am concerned, it was a job well done.

As for the story: of course I believe that the rivalry between Lauda and James Hunt existed in some way along the lines described, and maybe it even was confirmed by Lauda to have been the a source of inspiration and an engine of recovery while in hospital. Niki Lauda was there to stay, while Hunt made an early exit from the circuit and one from life not much later, so it’s hard to compare their respective impact as drivers and personalities. But I honestly do not have the memory of James Hunt being more than a footnote in Formula One history, no match in legend-dimensions to the guys he was competing with. There was Mario Andretti on the track, there was Clay Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi… but James Hunt? Anyway: played quite well by Chris Hemsworth of “Thor” kind-of-fame as an immature playboy, who will not understand why it is that he cannot get past the boring Austrian guy with the funny teeth.

There is an accident at the heart of my memory about the Formula 1 season of the time, and I was surprised to find out that the drama that enfolds after that accident is actually no less stunning than the build-up to the crash itself. Did that season finale really play out like that? Then I have to thank Ron Howard indeed for reminding me of it, because it is an almost incredible story.

No need to mention this is quite stunningly filmed and competently directed, right? This is Ron Howard, after all, who knows how to entertain the senses…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rush_2013/

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