Just give me the drive
Having seen the trailer for Ron Howard’s torque strewn homage to 1970s Formula One racing, I wasn’t that revved. To my non petrol-head it looked like the Wachowski siblings ’Speed Racer’, but passed through the retro filter of soft focus Playboy Vaseline lensed footage, as opposed to the retina burning digital clarity of ’Racer’. So the idea of going down this memory track and it’s many laps weren’t helping at all. How wrong I was.
I had also forgotten how good a director Ron Howard is, with his ability to unearth and nourish the humanity in a story. All somewhat essential in a tale about testosterone pumped alpha males, tearing round race tracks, sitting in what are effectively potential machined bombs with cigarette branding, and all in a world where health and safety clearly hadn’t been invented yet.
From the opening moments it’s like we have accelerated (at a ridiculous speed) back through time to a forgotten Formula One era. Everything is so different, yet it wasn’t really that long ago. Beautifully captured in both look, details, sound, language and social behaviour, you wouldn’t have been surprised if James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) walked up to a girl like a Cro-Magnon dandy peacock, clubbed her with a champagne bottle, and dragged her off to his man cave/garage, such is the other worldly bygone attitudes on show. Matched with the voice over comment where we are told that at least two people die a year in any Formula One season, you really do wonder were these people even from the same planet.
Ultimately it’s about the two leads, the English Hunt and his main rival, Austrian Niki Lauda (really brilliantly played by Daniel Brühl) both perpetually fighting for pole position, on the grid and in general life, by any means necessary. Hunt and Lauda are the epitome of yin and yang, cricket whites to Austrian oak smoked cheese. Yet though they both have innate natural talents, effectively brawn vs. brains, they excel in their lives more often than not because of each other. Certainly in the later stages of their careers, they are each others nemesis and inspiration, at the same time.
This relationship between the two main characters is the real pumping engine of the movie, and it is fantastic to watch. Sure the race scenes are really well done, the engine noises making you want to reach for ear plugs as you feel you are now part of the pit crew. But watching these arch rivals slowly but surely adapt the character traits of their opposites (however briefly), for better and definitely for worse, it is a wonderful study of the flaws inherent in us all, and where are most powerful influences, can quite often be negative.
That’s not to wave a chequered flag on the movie being fun, it is. It’s at times very funny, again, looks fantastic (see it in the biggest screen you can, ear plugs are optional), and will fully satisfy all the oil stained brains and Top Gear dads out there. But it’s also a study on the various routes an individual can take to reach a goal, be it stubborn self determination (Hunts desperate call to race again in ‘Just give me the drive’), or acute studious intelligence (Lauda’s engine building prowess). As the flag finally drops, maybe it’s a combination of both.
RUSH is out today, and released by Universal Studios.