Rush Movie Review – How Hunt and Lauda Remind Us of Kirk and Spock
Warning: this Rush movie review does contain a few spoilers, but you if haven’t seen the movie, you can still read it and then be fine to go see it.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not one for automobiles. Whenever the conversation I’m involved in turns to cars, my one talking point is “Yeah, my dad had a ’67 Jag XKE sitting in our garage for a few years that was pretty cool.” Everyone’s minds gets blown for for a second, then I just pray they don’t start asking follow-up questions and appreciate that I contributed to the conversation.
So you can imagine that I don’t have much of an affinity for car racing either, whether it be NASCAR or Formula One. I do have an appreciation for for the drivers and what they do. They have to be in peak physical condition and are certainly athletes in my book. But I just don’t have much interest in watching them drive 653 laps around the same track.
But something about the movie Rush caught my attention. Maybe it was all the explosions in the previews, or that Thor was the main character, or that it was the first whiff of a sports movie since 42. After all, as Grantland pointed out, Hollywood isn’t exactly churning out that many sports movies nowadays.
Whatever it was, I dragged my wife to the theater last week with the promise that I’d buy her popcorn and she’d see a lot of Chris Hemsworth. And when I left the theater two hours later, I wasn’t disappointed.
Rush does what any good sports movie does – it became a movie not entirely about sports, focusing on developing the characters and their relationships while mixing in footage of the actual competition. This was especially important for me in this instance, since I know nothing about cars and racing. If James Hunt and Niki Lauda had spend the entire movie discussing what tires were the most well-made or if Ferrari or McLaren made a better car, then I would have been snoozing early.
But they didn’t. Instead their most memorable conversations revolved around their stylistic differences. The one that sticks out in my mind was near the end when Lauda told Hunt that he was going to start season testing the next week, and Hunt scoffed at him because he was going to spend some more traveling the world in his jet. Hunt put it much more eloquently than I will here, but in essence he said that there is no point in trying to be the best if you don’t allow yourself to celebrate when you achieve it.
It tied the whole movie together, because it crystallized and cemented the development of each character. Hunt was the dashing Englishmen who always took risks on the speedway, had a handle of whiskey on the table nearest him and had a new woman (or two) on his arm. Lauda on the other hand was the stereotypical Austrian, technically sound in every way whose precision and attention to detail made him the polar opposite of Hunt. The differences they had were mutually understood, and since they both led to great results via separate paths, mutually respected.
The dynamic reminded me of one of my favorite relationships in cinema history: Captain Kirk and Commander Spock. Kirk was the playboy hotspot captain who did nothing by the book; Spock was the stoic Vulcan genius who told him the percentages of each of his plans failing.
Hunt and Lauda also drove each other to be better drivers. They noticed what type of tires the other was going to use and made decisions on what they would drive with based on what they saw. Hunt made a decision on what brand he was going to race for because he knew that only they could make a car that could keep up with Lauda’s Ferrari. Lauda at one point was recovering from an injury in the hospital and later told Hunt that watching him win races while he was out fueled him to get back behind the wheel faster.
Kirk and Spock had this element as well. Spock would get mad at Kirk for any one of many reasons (like checking out his woman during Vulcan mating season) and they would have sweet duels like the one below. In the first J.J. Abrams movie, older Spock would tell Kirk to stop fighting with younger Spock because he needed him and the friendship “that would define them.”
So bottom line, if you can make a racing movie that has a good balance of sports and drama, plus reminds me of Star Trek, then you’ve done really well. Rush didn’t surpass Mighty Ducks or Remember the Titans on my list of top sports movies, but it definitely made a fine attempt.
Be sure to check out a SpreeGoogs’ list of top sports movies and the Rush trailer below.