Rush (2013)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino, Natalie Dormer, Stephen Mangan, Christian McKay, Julian Rhind-Tutt

Directed by: Ron Howard

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in Ron Howard's Rush

If you'd told me a few days ago that I'd spend my day off on the edge of my seat, glued to a nail-biting Grand Prix race, I'd never have believed you. But such is the power and charisma of Ron Howard's race track biopic Rush that it actually manages to make what, up until now, has seemed to me one of the most tedious sports ever into a nerve-shredding injection of pure adrenalin.

Rush tells the true tale of the legendary rivalry between hedonistic Hooray Henry playboy Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and uptight, workaholic, Austrian precision-meister Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt in RushFrom the early, carefree days of Formula 3 (a swig of champagne and a quick toke and it's into the car to face possible death) to their final, gripping showdown during the Grand Prix series of 1976, the two drivers vie for pole position, their poles-apart, wine and water personalities instantly causing friction between them, yet also fuelling the fire within that pushes them to win.

Yes, we have lots of brilliant, split-second, high octane shots of blistering tyres, shifting gears, pumping pistons and, er, other car parts, all drowned out by the deafening roar of 450 horse power engines. And we do come to appreciate the intense skill and stamina required to be a world class driver (it turns out it's not just about the car – who knew?) But at heart, like The Duellists, this is a film about two men driven by rivalry (no pun intended) and its strength lies in their portrayal.

Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene and Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in Rush

While Hemsworth has it fairly easy, investing the devastatingly handsome, charming, macho Hunt with a childlike vulnerability that easily makes up for his selfish, feckless side, Brühl (complete with trademark Lauda overbite) has the much harder job or making us like a man who seems to almost revel in his own deliberate unlikeability. And yet he succeeds, quirky rays of humour breaking through the cold, meticulous, ruthlessly logical exterior to reveal a thoughtful, admirable man.

Strong storytelling which tugs at that scary loose thread in the mind, threatening to unravel all kinds of dark thoughts about why we live and how we face (or don't face) death, alongside awesome camera work, great performances, a powerhouse score and fabulous '70s period styling: Rush has everything I love in a film. And fast cars. Fasten your seatbelt, you're in for one hell of a ride...

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