Rush**** (National Film Theatre, 4 September 2013)

Posted: September 5, 2013 in Cinema

That I should choose to see a film about motor racing or any film directed by Ron Howard is as likely as catching a cold during the warmest Summer for years. But this is superb and I enjoyed it enormously despite the cold. Peter Morgan’s script is intelligent with razor sharp dialogue, the acting by the two leads is top class and the racing footage is breathtaking. Going back to days when two drivers were expected to be killed during races each year, the film focusses mainly on the 1976 Season, and the intense rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), the handsome daredevil playboy and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), the uncharismatic technical geek; its masterstroke is not to side with either driver, each is hero and villain in equal measure and the audience is left rooting for both. All of the period detail may not be quite right and dramatic licence has been taken with some facts (see below), but these are very minor quibbles, because the film is totally absorbing, exciting and, at times, very moving; the two hours literally goes by in a rush.

After this screening, the writer Peter Morgan took part in a Q&A session. SPOILER ALERT. He is particularly noted for re-creating actual events from recent history for stage, film and television (“Frost/Nixon”, “The Queen”, “The Audience” etc) and he began by discussing the responsibility he has to the real people involved. He said that, in the week of David Frost’s death, he had felt guilt about the disproportionate coverage given to the Nixon interviews in the tributes being paid; he felt that this was partly caused by the success of his play/film, in which he had magnified the extent of Frost’s “victory” for dramatic purposes, and that the many other significant achievements in Frost’s life were being overlooked as a result. He collaborated extensively with Lauda in writing “Rush”; his dialogue was written with his voice and speech patterns in mind and the Bruhl replicated them to perfection. Lauda had seen the film three times; on the first occasion he seemed simply curious, but on the second he was overcome by emotion; this was because he had deliberately put his horrific accident behind him and never thought about it; however, seeing it on screen made him realise the magnitude of it for the first time. Hunt’s family were at first reluctant to cooperate but overcame their suspicions; it seems likely that Hunt suffered from bipolar condition, something hinted at in the film. Regarding the accuracy of events depicted, the hitch hiking incident was invented (although Lauda and his wife both felt they would have acted in that way had the situation arisen) and Hunt did not assault the journalist who asked Lauda an offensive question; with regard to this latter incident, Morgan said that it was true to Hunt’s character to launch physical attacks, the journalist really asked that question and so he created the scene to demonstrate the friendship and respect between the two drivers. He also commented on his boundaries in distorting facts for dramatic effect, saying that the audience must be able to believe in what is on the screen; as an example of something that crosses his boundaries, he cited the ludicrous climax of the Oscar-winning “Argo” which he feels (and I agree wholeheartedly) ruins the entire credibility of the film. Finally, on being asked why he had a tendency to write scripts about male rivalries, Morgan refuted the suggestion that he is a one-trick pony and said that he had resolved never to write another such script. However, shortly after making this resolution, he received a commission that no writer could refuse (from Ang Lee) to write about another male rivalry. That should be worth waiting for.

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