It’s midnight and I just arrived home from a screening of Ron Howard’s new film Rush. I stopped on the way to grab myself a bottle of red, as I thought this little essay might require a few deep glasses and even a left-handed cigarette befitting of the era and some of the men I must write about.
It’s been a long while since I’ve awaited the release of any entertainment property as eagerly as I have Rush. From day 1 my social media, my connections to the world of racing and my relationships with people that remember the hey days of F1 have made me a prime target for its marketing focus.
I will admit in advanced that I used to make a living writing screenplays, so I arrived prepared to be underwhelmed but curious as to how Richie Cunningham took up the challenge. I’ve never reviewed a film and I never would have taken on the task had the subject matter not been so close to my heart. As an amateur racer and as a lifelong Formula 1 racing fan, I can truly applaud the end result.
Photo Credit: http://www.rushmovie.com/
Unlike a lot of films that take on a very niche subject matter, Ron Howard doesn’t try to interweave the history of the sport or provide a backdrop for a true story about a 5 year rivalry set in the swanky world of 70’s Formula 1 racing. He dives right in with an opening race scene that had me twerkin’ in my seat.
Like with The Doors biopic one must first overcome the suspension of disbelief when it comes to the main character; James Hunt a posh and handsome Englishman renowned for having a few glasses of champagne, a few puffs of jungle tobacco and some group sex, before piloting his 500 horsepower F1 car to occasional victory. Like with Val Kilmer, you have to squint a bit and just allow yourself to be sucked so perfectly back into a time of semi-formal corduroy, cigarette sponsorship and rotary telephones. The chap that plays James Hunt’s rival, the Austrian “rat” Niki Lauda, does a seamless job of convincing you that he is “zee German racing machine” that perfectly juxtaposes the party animal who drives with his heart and not his head.
I will spare you any further spoiler alert details about the film’s plot, other than to say that the balance of story and racing is perfect. One minute I was covered in V12 goosebumps, then I was drawn into a very endearing love story, then suddenly laughing my head off when Lauda and his girlfriend are picked up as hitchhikers in the Italian countryside, the day after Ferrari announces their new signing with the Austrian driver. It’s only in the second half of the film where Mr. Howard puts you into the cockpit of these incredible machines, for the most visceral track driving experience of any film I’ve ever seen.
The attention to detail is perfect. The unpolished aluminum, the beautiful race suits and helmets (painted by my dear friend Kelly Kocher) perfectly fetishize an era in racing that will never be the same. I grew up watching these imperfect men, risk their lives in the pursuit of world championships (2 perished per season on average) and being in a cinema for 90 minutes immersed in it, made me think of what clinical tripe we are now subject to every two weeks, when the pilots of modern day F1 try to keep up with the engineering that determines the outcome of most championships.
Ultimately this film is about racers and a battle that was long since won between the knight that conquers through passion and bravery, and the clinical tactician who dedicates his life to making himself as machine-like as possible. This is the true theme of this film and it poses an important question. Would you be happy to bed 10,000 women, drink yourself a thousand great adventures, love, lose and conquer just once as James Hunt did when he won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1976 or are you the guy whose greed for success will drive you till you are replaced by someone hungrier than you? I know my answer.
“I would like to sincerely thank Brembo Brakes for hosting the evening’s screening. It’s encouraging when a multibillion dollar car parts company, understands the value of the heritage as much as they obviously do. There is a long, wide shot at the end of the film where you see the grandstands and there’s a lone Brembo banner in the old font. It’s obvious to say they make the best brakes in the world but it’s also nice to know they were present, when cigarettes where being casually smoked by pit crews during the race. Bravo.