Given the movies’ love of car chases, you’d think more films would be made about the professionals who do it for a living. Scratching an itch, this Formula One drama has a lot going for it at the starting line: a real-life 1976 rivalry between magnetic competitors James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl); a burnished, beer-commercial glow courtesy of inspired cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle; and the director of the original Grand Theft Auto, Ron Howard. Hunt, a playboy, and Lauda, severe and calibrated, make for obvious friction. Soon, something’s gone horribly wrong on the track, and not just the expected fiery spinouts. The plot lacks the grease-stained poetry of better gearhead clashes.
Cynically, Rush seems to be courting a video-game crowd. Howard’s hottest point of contact comes at a press conference, where the physically mangled Lauda spits invective at a journalist asking about the state of his marriage. A more daring filmmaker would have probed Lauda’s sacrifice in a quieter follow-up scene. Instead, the movie leans on symbolic imagery that’s alternately tired and ridiculous: Hunt’s impatiently flicked cigarette lighter or a black-widow spider crawling up the stands of one particularly dangerous course. This tale deserves more gas in the tank. Joshua Rothkopf
Dir Ron Howard Category IIB, 123 mins, opens on Thu Oct 10