In 1976, there were two names in Formula 1 racing: James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Hunt was the quintessential party guy while Lauda was the meticulously dedicated student. Hunt had charisma but Lauda won the most races. Their rivalry not only fueled the sport but also each other, pushing each driver to the limit of their capacities and beyond, eventually leading to a near catastrophic crash that left both men scarred in different ways.
The biggest thing I took out of Rush is that the world of cinema is a better place when Ron Howard is relevant. Coming off a near decade of sub-par work (minus 2008's Frost/Nixon which is superb), Howard returns to prominence here and reminds you that when he is at his best, he makes tremendous films that resonate no matter the subject matter. Case in point: In my 30 years of existence, I have at no point given a second thought to Formula 1 racing and yet, he made me care about the sport, if only for a couple of hours. His knack for story development is on full display within Rush and his camera work is even more spectacular. He uses practical effects whenever possible instead of relying on CGI and the result is a pulse-pounding, real experience that you would never guess cost less than $40 to produce. The action sequences have appropriate scale to the "story first" nature of the field but they are nonetheless exciting and thoroughly entertaining. Essentially what I'm saying is, Ron Howard makes blockbuster movies for adults and Rush is a prime example of what he does best.
That's not to say that Howard doesn't have a lot to work with. Bruhl gives a phenomenal portrayal as the serious-minded, borderline tortured Lauda and you could certainly talk me into his deserving a place within the Best Actor award conversation. He's great and this is just as much his movie as it is Hemsworth's. It just so happens, however, that Chris Hemsworth is becoming a movie star before our very eyes and watching his maturation is a sight to behold. There's a big difference between "great actor" and "movie star" and in a world that has become increasingly reliant on franchise/property value, the number of true movie stars has dwindled. Hemsworth can officially count himself among that group as far as I'm concerned. His charisma is endless and he seems born to play the role of playboy Hunt and yet he brings more depth to the character than I might have expected. Bruhl's is the performance that deserves adoration but it is Hemsworth's that will be talked about.
Though there are some issues that sprout up along the way (most notably, more exposition than we really need and an exceptionally annoying track announcer that narrates the action far too frequently in the closing stretch), Rush is a powerful and compelling film that I expect we'll hear more from come award season. Grade: A (Rated R for language, nudity, drug use, and some graphic surgery-related scenes that will scar you for life)