Ron Howard's Rush is winning all sorts of praise as being daring (for taking on subject matter that apparently isn't an automatic audience magnet), a throwback to the 1970s (when filmmakers took more risks) and just plain sexy and exciting.
Yet I found it to be exactly as middlebrow and mainstream as most of Howard's oeuvre. Make no mistake: Howard is a skilled craftsman who understands how to tell a story in a way that is engaging and audience-friendly. But no matter how many times he says that he was attracted to Rush because it was "sexy and cool," well, it doesn't necessarily make it so.
If anything, Rush shows the limitations of a passion project, in this case one initiated by playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan. The author of The Queen and Frost/Nixon (among others), Morgan is a writer with a strong sense of how to make the nuts-and-bolts of history interesting by showing it in human terms.
With Rush, he shows his fanboy side. While he and Howard can talk about how hard they worked to show that the two central characters were assholes - but lovable assholes - the characters turn out to be lovable rascals: the one a flamboyant natural, the other a detail-centric nerd with a touch of genius.
Rush is based on the true story of Formula One racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), who hit the peak of their long-running rivalry in the mid-1970s. The film focuses on a single season: 1976, when the two dominated the sport and cut whatever corners they could (well, Hunt cut corners; Lauda calculated them) to defeat each other.
This review continues on my website.