(director: Ron Howard; screenwriter: Peter Morgan; cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle; editors: Dan Hanley /Mike Hill; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Chris Hemsworth (James Hunt), Daniel Brühl (Niki Lauda), Olivia Wilde (Suzy Miller), Alexandra Maria Lara (Marlene Lauda), Pierfrancesco Favino (Clay Regazzoni), Natalie Dormer (Nurse Gemma); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ron Howard/Peter Morgan/Andrew Eaton/Eric Fellner/Brian Oliver/Brian Grazer; Universal Pictures; 2013)

The thriller tells us all we need to know about the real-life champion Formula 1 rivals in the early 1970s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Ron Howard(“A Beautiful Mind“/” Frost/Nixon“/”Grand Theft Auto”) strays from his usual middle-brow pot-boilers to present a personal character study sports spectacle, shot as a splashy docu-drama. It’s written by Peter Morgan to lionize polar opposite racing drivers who put their life on the line with each race and are both passionate about their chosen sport even if they act differently and have different work agendas. The thriller tells us all we need to know about the real-life champion Formula 1 rivals in the early 1970s–the charismatic, loose-cannon, reckless, English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Australian) and the cautious, arrogant, by-the-book, mechanical-minded, methodical and unlikable square, the Austrian born Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, Spanish-born German actor). They are both great drivers and are challenging each other for dominance in the dangerous sport ever since they met when both started out racing in 1970 in Formula 3 as unknowns.

The gist of the film follows the Formula 1 racing tour during the 1976 Grand Prix season. Things keep purring when in August world champion Lauda wants to cancel because of the rain a race on the dangerous Nurburgring track in Germany, infamously known as “The Graveyard,” but the other drivers vote to have the race by backing the popular Hunt. Being in second place he is unwilling to cancel the race and thereby possibly cede the World Championship to his rival, who is far ahead on points at this juncture. As a result Lauda against his better judgment races and crashes, and though severely hurt recovers with a disfigured face. While rehabbing and preparing to get back to racing, Lauda and his sharp-tongued beautiful wife Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) form a more tender relationship and we gain a little more sympathy for the smug Austrian who was initially rebuffed by his wealthy family for choosing racing over business or politics. The pic culminates with Lauda returning to the racing circuit for the few remaining races left in the season and in the tour’s last race the championship is at stake on a wet track in Japan.

Rush goes high-octane on the racing sequences, which should get the adrenaline flowing for Formula 1 racing fans. Others might not be as thrilled, but might get off on getting tuned into the intense real-life rivalry played out with great emotions. The lead actors are excellent, perfectly cast for their colorful parts. While Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) is noticeably good, in a supporting role, as the sexy model trophy wife, who will drop her inattentive party-going hubby soon for a fling with the older but not necessarily wiser Richard Burton.

I’m no fan of Formula 1 or Ron Howard, but the pic won me over with the way it created some excitement on and off the track and kept my interest throughout on a subject I am not interested in.

Daniel Brühl and Chris Hemsworth in Rush (2013)