Rush

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

18 February

 

 

Enzo Ferrari born, 1898

On this day in 1898, Enzo Anselmo Ferrari was born. The man who would later be known as Il Commendatore, founder and leader of the Ferrari racing team (and car manufacturer) was taken to a racing track as a kid and realised immediately that he wanted to be a driver. By the early 1920s he was Alfa Romeo’s test driver, and when the company decided to outsource their racing unit, it was Ferrari that ran it. He went solo during the Second World War, during which time Alfa paid him not to compete, and by the end of the war was ready with his first car, the game-changing 125, a two-seated GT car that became the basis for Ferrari’s first vehicle when the new fangled Formula 1 launched. Unlike other manufacturers, who see race cars as a testbed for road car production, Ferrari was never that interested in road cars, and saw them largely as a way of defraying the huge expense of racing. He stayed true to his first love, even after he sold 50 per cent of the company to Fiat in 1969, remaining totally in control of the racing side of things right up to his death in 1988, aged 90.

 

 

 

Rush (2013, dir: Ron Howard)

A thrilling, period-perfect and beautifully written film about the rivalry between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda, whose duelling on the track came to a head in the 1976 Formula 1 season. The fact that Rush exists at all, on this scale at least, must in large part be down to Senna, the 2010 documentary about the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost which had turned out to be a surprise hit. Formula 1 – a graveyard for film-makers since actor Steve McQueen busted himself with Le Mans – could sell cinema tickets it seemed. In the personalities of Hunt and Lauda director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan have chosen well. Hunt’s skills as a driver were debatable – he wasn’t called Hunt the Shunt for nothing – but he had flair and it can’t be denied that he was a good looking man. Cut to the two opening scene that set the tone for the whole film and we have Lauda in voiceover explaining that Formula 1 in the 1970s is deadly (“Each year 25 drivers line up on the start line for Formula 1. Each year, two of us die.”) Cut to Hunt standing in the doorway of a hospital accident room, racesuit unzipped to the waist, looking up through his eyelashes at a weak-kneed nurse like a Greek god out for a good time. Hunt is played by Chris Hemsworth, who nails the drawling British goodtime Charlie accent, while Daniel Brühl does the harder job of bottling Lauda, a tactician, a technician, a driving genius. Rush’s skill is to tell the story of that year – when Lauda crashed and literally burned, allowing Hunt a chance to steal the driver’s championship – without letting the facts get in the way of a good story. So we have the girls and the glory, the gladiatorial joust of driving at the edge of a car’s (and a human’s) abilities, and most of all the rivalry between two very different types of human beings – the grasshopper and the ant, as Aesop would have said. Who was the better driver? The film is generous to Hunt though it’s obvious that it was Lauda. It’s Ron Howard’s best film – big, thrilling, funny, intelligent, atmospheric and pretty much faultlessly made. And, having learnt the lesson from history, Howard doesn’t make the mistake of so many other race films – there isn’t actually that much track action.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, both perfect
  • 1970s hedonism perfectly conjured
  • Doesn’t shy away from the fact that F1 was a brutal, deadly sport
  • Olivia Wilde, just one among a standout cast

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Rush – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Deadfall

Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde in Deadfall

 

 

Remember Eric Bana in Chopper, frightening everyone to death as Australia’s most gruesomely violent criminal, Mark “Chopper” Read? There are echoes of Bana the Bad in Deadfall, in which he plays one half of a psycho sibling pair who are heading, unwittingly as far as they and everyone else concerned can tell, for a showdown rendezvous at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Deadfall isn’t half as good as Chopper, though it does give Bana a chance to show us he can still do ugly. If only writer Zach Dean and director Stefan Ruzowitzky had worked out some way of telling the other four stories they’re trying to tell with economy, leaving Bana with more screen time to frighten us.

I’m being unkind. One benefit of the various other plotlines is that we get to see Olivia Wilde playing the sort of cocktease you suspect features in many men’s daydreams. That she’s also meant to be as mad as her brother (Bana), the two of them being on the run from some heist or other, is never entirely believable. But Wilde is hot and maybe that’s enough.

In another plotline, we have Jay (Charlie Hunnam), a nice young boxer just out of prison who, accidentally you understand, does something very violent to the boxing promoter who owes him cash and is forced into hitting the highway to avoid arrest.

In another plotline we have Jay’s parent, played with tender nuance by Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek, wibbling about at home, she wondering if/when her son is going to turn up, he wondering when his son is going to admit he threw some damn fight or other and become a man.

In yet another plotline we have Kate Mara, playing a local cop, the poor wee thing constantly intimidated by the macho police culture and by her father, also her boss. “What if you had to change a tampon?” he barks at her in front of her colleagues, when she asks why she can’t join the manhunt for Bana.

Without detailing the entire plot, Bana spends the film killing people and stumbling through the wintry snow, Olivia stumbles towards Charlie, Kate stumbles towards self-belief and the Kris and Sissy stumble about at home, pretending their characters serve a purpose before they are called on to host the grand finale Thanksgiving dinner.

There is great stuff in here. Mara is actually the most remarkable, in the most disposable plotline, a dainty figure required to show growing resolve. Wilde’s sexual oomph I’ve already mentioned. But the film’s exploration of family – psychotic and otherwise – doesn’t really catch hold until all the various plotlines are hastily gathered together at the redemptive Thanksgiving table, traditionally the site of much family hashing about.

It’s also the first time that Bana has been allowed inside after 90 minutes of bashing about in the snow. The fact that the film only gets going once we can see Bana’s eyes properly is not coincidental.

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Deadfall – at Amazon

I am an Amazon affiliate