Oscar Bait Season: Rush (2013)
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
Autumn is over, winter has come. And for the film industry, this is typically the time of the year when they throw out lots and lots “Oscar Bait” in anticipation for the awards season. These films are made for one purpose, and one purpose only; to win awards. The two “top dogs” for these films are the BAFTAs and the Academy Awards. Oscar Bait are made to win the production team as many awards as possible; a best actor, a best actress, best director, best screenplay award, etc. Why do they do this? I don’t know, respect and recognition or something like that. This is just the cynic inside of me talking, however, as there are a great many films that end up at the awards that were made simply as a film – but made exceptionally well. With that in mind, I’ll look back at one of the earlier films this year to generate some awards buzz.
Rush, directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan, is a biopic based on the racing careers and the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl respectively. James Hunt is a headstrong and determined young racer; he feels he has everything to prove to his family, due to their disapproval at what he does for a living, in contrast to what they do in their much more “respected” jobs (lawyers, bankers and such). Chris Hemsworth plays the part well; his pronounced English accent has been toned down from what we’ve seen of it in Thor, and this helped me somewhat to not picture Thor racing a car around a track. In short, Hemsworth convinced me that he is capable of breaking away from the role that has become associated with him.
Daniel Bruhl, as Niki Lauda, gives an excellent performance too and I’d argue the stronger performance of the two leads. Niki is the very opposite of James in that he relies on his technical genius and absolute focus to help him finish his races. Daniel Bruhl has come to prominence over the last few years as an exceptionally talented actor, his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious, a stark contrast to his arguably more heartfelt role in Rush. The transformation that Niki goes through during the film, from someone who is seemingly cold and calculating, to someone who decides to throw the final race away instead of risking his life again, is a touching one. Bruhl portrays the conflict Niki goes through with himself and with James wonderfully and I wouldn’t be surprised if a nomination for the award for best actor or best supporting actor was thrown his way at the Oscars in the next couple of months.
Ron Howard’s direction and Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography make the race scenes fast paced and exciting, though I felt that there were too many close ups of the racer’s faces and not enough action on the cars themselves. If you’re a race fan, you want to look at the cars and how fast they’re going, don’t you? It’s here that the film is let down ever so slightly and I’m forced to compare it to 2010 documentary film Senna – another film based on Formula One racing, which received an Academy Award for best documentary. The film was made up entirely of pre-existing footage; every piece of race footage that there was of Senna. And the racing footage was far more exciting. There should have been more of an attempt to capture the feel of a high speed, dangerous, Formula One race in Rush, as I feel it was lacking somewhat. But this is a minor gripe against an excellently made film.
An interesting question that I suppose the film poses is that, to be the best at a competitive and often dangerous sport, is it worth risking everything? Strong performances all round, with decent directing and cinematography, if you’re a formula one fan or are into your sports drama films, Rush gets a recommendation from me!