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Ron Howard’s Rush: the true story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s legendary Formula 1 rivalry

“The risk of death turns people on”

People pursue their professional sports dreams for a lot of different reasons: the money, the fame—pure love of the game. And what’s a good sport without the competition? What would sports even be without the competition? In the case of more extreme sports, you have Formula 1 Racing: a popular multi-turn circuit-racing sport that’s vehicles are built to reach up to 200 miles (/320 kilometers) per hour. The type of racing was made popular by the annual Grand Prix that draws hundreds of millions of viewers each year from all around the world. Which: yes, circling around a track at ungodly speeds can be seen as quite entertaining (yet actually really stupid), but it’s the cheating death factor that all drivers know going into each race that keeps them coming back for more.

I know what you’re thinking: ugh, another racing film? Really? But I promise director Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, director of The Da Vinci Code, Apollo 13—probably one of the nerdier moviemakers out there) really makes this story exciting (and no, you do not have to be a Formula 1 fanatic to “get” it).

During the peak of the sport in 1976 two legendary rivals James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) were among the hottest drivers for one reason: they absolutely despised each other and were at constant competition. Hunt, who was actually terrified of the sport (he threw up out of nervousness before each race), seemed to be in it more for the thrill and beautiful babes than anything; Lauda, in it more for the perfection and to simply be the best driver.


While Hunt and Lauda both exceeded without a doubt at their craft, the two’s temperaments were polar opposites off the track: Lauda, the colder, more serious driver who values discipline in the sport; Hunt, the carefree racer who just loves the rush and the boozy after parties (he drank a lot). Whatever the attitude, Hunt’s spotlight became more and more threatened as soon as Lauda decided to buy himself into the game. Though he was seen as somewhat of a wannabe for doing so, Lauda’s smarts and abilities to even put together his own vehicle left Hunt questioning himself and his reputability after his newcomer rival keeps beating him.

Rush, taking a hard look at the two’s life on the track, also shows the two’s love and personal lives. Big shocker: they were also polar opposites. Hunt, a definite womanizer/sex all the time-type, had his fair share of the ladies (the movie opens up with a sex scene with a nurse played by Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones); he later marries model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) sporadically, but his drinking and spiraling career could not make their marriage last. Unlike Hunt, Lauda’s take on love was a lot like his take on sports: not very emotional, often neglected, and far more down to business, marrying his longtime girlfriend Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara).

One specific race that would go down in Formula 1 history forever was the 1976 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring that left Lauda permanently disfigured due to wetter than normal conditions. It’s actually quite amazing Lauda survived, considering his entire body set fire for a little over a minute, but the accident’s considerably damaging effects on Lauda would not keep him from racing and claiming the world title as his own.

Rush really lives up to its title, as there never is one dull moment. Brühl and Hemsworth play their parts as Lauda and Hunt honorably, and Howard truly nailed this one with absolute perfection (who knew greasy race cars could also be gorgeous?). Leaving the theater you will be cringing at the thought of this sport’s ultimate threat after seeing Lauda post-accident, but you will also leave weirdly inspired.

(photo via IndiFilmz)

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.