- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
- Bariatric Surgery Services to present annual fashion show Nov. 25
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- Spinal cord injury research program receives gift
Rush — a solid film from veteran Ron Howard
I can’t say I am a particularly big fan of car racing of any kind, be it Formula One or NASCAR, but damned if I wasn’t fairly enthralled by it in “Rush,” the latest from director Ron Howard. That makes it the second movie in a row (after last week’s surprisingly excellent “Prisoners”) to benefit from my lowered expectations. Maybe I should just always expect the worst so that I can always be relatively impressed, if these films are any indication.
Anyway, back to Howard. Is it ever too late to say that a filmmaker has graduated to making more “adult” films? I mean, he’s pushing sixty, for God’s sake. And yet, there is an impressive go-for-broke approach to this film that smacks of the work of a much younger, more vital filmmaker. It seems like the work of someone with something to prove, you know what I mean?
In some ways, maybe Howard does have something to prove. After all, he’s best known, insofar as his directorial work is concerned, as a steadfast, reliable purveyor of comedies and serious dramas, the latter of which are often Oscar bait. What he isn’t known for is being edgy and unpredictable. You kind of know what you’re going to get when you go to see one of his films, in other words.
Not this time. From the jump, this is a very different kind of Howard film, coming across like the work of an artist who is as vital as he ever was when he was a younger man. This is a movie for adults by an adult. There’s sex, drugs, cringe-inducing violence, casual nudity and swearing- in short, pretty much everything you don’t expect in a Ron Howard movie.
He’s also got an ace true-life story going for him, in the tale of two Formula One racers engaged in a battle to be the best of the best, even if it costs them their lives. And this isn’t some feel-good, true story, a la “Apollo 13” or “Cinderella Man” or even a feel-bad look at a troubled individual, a la “A Beautiful Mind” or “Frost/Nixon.” No, the two main characters here aren’t particularly sympathetic, or even that likable, which is part of why it’s so interesting how compelling it all is.
On the one hand, we’ve got the swaggering, egotistical James Hunt (erstwhile “Thor” Chris Hemsworth), who never meant a woman he didn’t try to bed- usually successfully. On the other, we’ve got the guarded, abrasive loner Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl, of “Inglourious Basterds”), who never met a mechanic he didn’t try to boss around to his exacting standards.
Hunt is the more naturally charismatic of the two, but that doesn’t mean he’s any more flawed than Lauda. Both pay the price for their chutzpa, as Hunt’s marriage to model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde, doing a capable British accent) is a tabloid-baiting shamble that ends in scandal, and Lauda’s harsh ways make him hard to like, resulting in everyone thinking he’s a total a-hole.
And yet, both envy the other, and it’s this drive, if you’ll pardon the expression, that results in them being the best at what they do. They both push each other in their own way, and they both learn to respect one another in their own way, even while they continue to infuriate each other at every turn.
It’s a fascinating dynamic, and it’s what makes the film work, even if you don’t give two whits about racing. (If you do, then rest assured, Howard has you covered there, too, as the races shown are nothing if not exciting to watch, and sometimes downright riveting.) Hemsworth and Brühl are both superlative here, giving breakout performances that should open them up to a much wider variety of roles and audiences than they’ve heretofore enjoyed. But honestly, the real star of the show here is director Howard, who I dare say, has never made a more exciting, sexy, essential film quite like this in his entire career.
Sometimes you’ve got to adjust to the material, and Howard really goes for broke here in a way that revitalizes his career, which needed a bit of a boost after the meandering “The Dilemma” and one too many Tom Hanks films. I genuinely hope this marks just the beginning of his starting to take more risks in his career, and at the very least, it shows that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. As such, I give this one a solid A.