RUSH - Not?

Thanks to Chrysler we went to an advanced screening of RUSH, the new Ron Howard movie "based on" the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The movie makes it clear that it is based on a true story and that's good because it does take liberties.

We both felt the first half of the movie, up to the crash, was pretty flat. I suppose it was intended to set up the rivalry between the two very different drivers but it just didn't work. To me it made both Hunt and Lauda as caricatures, not real people. Hunt is the drinking, drug using, womanizing playboy with natural talent and no fear; Lauda is the calculating Teutonic machine.

The crash itself was a disappoint as well. No, I didn't want it more graphic just more real. Very little was said or shown of the four drivers who braved the flames and risked their lives to save Niki. Here is a description of the accident, "Lauda's Ferrari swerved off the track, due to a suspected rear suspension failure (the movie shows a suspension piece breaking but so subtly I'm not sure if non-automotive audience members will understand what the part is), hit an embankment (the movie has the Ferrari hitting a guard rail) and rolled into the path of Brett Lunger's Surtees-Ford car. Lauda's Ferrari burst into flames, but, unlike Lunger, he was trapped in the wreckage. Drivers Arturo Merzario, Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl arrived at the scene a few moments later, but before they were able to pull Lauda from his car, he suffered severe burns to his head and inhaled hot toxic gases that damaged his lungs and blood." Here is actual footage of the crash; if you see the movie compare it to Ron Howard's crash.

The most realistic scenes for me were those of Niki in the hospital, and maybe that's because I'm squeamish. Watching them peel the bandages from Niki's head and face, listening to his screams got to me. Anyone who has had to have a bandage changed knows the agony of removing it from damaged flesh. The scene when they are vacuuming out his lungs though was kind of like the old sword swallowing trick where you stand sideways, open your mouth and slide the sword down the side away from the audience. 

I never got to see either James Hunt or Niki Lauda race in person. I lived through the reporting of Rob Walker in Road & Track. I hung on every word Rob wrote. For those who don't know Mr. Walker, he was a bit of a F1 insider having run his own team, Rob Walker Racing from the 1950s until 1973. He gave perspective to the drivers and races. Neither James nor Niki were as one dimensional as the film makes them out to be.

I'm not going to say don't see RUSH. I was disappointed but that's me. The hype seems to be that it's the best race movie ever. Not for me. I loved Grand Prix (James Garner, 1966) and Le Mans (Steve McQueen, 1971). Maybe part of the problem is both of those movies were current, not a look back. 

But don't forget I am not a movie critic.

Post script - A friend who was covering F1 during '76 says it's a good movie. Who am I to disagree?


Anonymous said…
Oh...and I thought it was a movie about Rush Limbaugh!!!

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