Ron Howard’s biopic depicts the on (and off) track rivalry between racing car drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) in the ‘70s as they battle each other and their own personal demons in the world of Formula One.
For some, there are only so many times you can watch cars going round and round really fast on a track so, thankfully, racing sequences are only thrown in when important – their final race together, for example – and more time seems to be taken over them. Extreme close-ups of the racers’ eyes, tyres searing around a bend and violent collisions are all the better for it. Accompanying key moments in the story with actual footage from the era is a nice touch, too.
Perhaps with the exception of too many “worried wife” shots of Hunt and Lauda’s other halves during races (Tron Legacy‘s Olivia Wilde, complete with spot on English accent; and Alexandra Maria Lara) nothing really lets the film down. The dialogue is spunky and tight, making for a solid reflection of sports stars then and now. Petrol-heads will be able to nod sagely at the engine/model references and those over a certain age will appreciate the super-cool soundtrack and bellbottom jeans.
We know Hemsworth can do arrogant (see Thor, Cabin in the Woods), so sadly he doesn’t make much of an impact as “immortal f**k” Hunt. That said; quieter moments when he is allowed to show some deeper emotion – such as, barefooted and beaming, going through the motions of a race in his head – carry an extra spark. Brühl’s tightly wound, robotic, technician Lauda is the perfect foil; and there are few actors who can actually make you wince in your seat at an injury their character experiences on screen.
Stalwart Howard fans are likely to feel that this isn’t his best – Rush is no Frost/Nixon – but it will serve as a reminder of why he is still one of the best and most sought-after directors out there today.
Released in UK cinemas on Friday 13 September 2013.