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Rush: a top-five racing movie for driving enthusiasts

by DrivingEnthusiast

Rush has already opened in some cities in North America and in other geographies around the world. Many reviews already exist; many with spoilers. There will be a slew of reviews coming out today, so we’ll leave ours for a few days so as not to reveal any spoilers. But we will compare it against other racing movies.

Without any doubt whatsoever, this is indeed one of the all-time top car racing films for enthusiasts. And exactly where it lands on our own top 5 list remains to be determined. When we decide where Rush stands on our list, we’ll consider these arguments:

– It doesn’t have the emotional impact of Senna. You will walk out of the theater thrilled by what you’ve seen in both films, but you won’t be so sad as to be speechless and deep in thought as with Senna. Senna was that good, and it was that tough on us. Like Senna, you will walk out of the theater determined to read some history of the early years of Grand Prix racing.

– It doesn’t have the sheer realism of Grand Prix, since Rush uses some liberal CGI out of necessity, and Grand Prix used none whatsoever. Keep in mind that due to safety and insurance constraints, Grand Prix couldn’t be made today. John Frankenheimer shot one scene in particular hanging out the door of a helicopter at 180 MPH! The studios would never allow Ron Howard or any other member of a film crew do that today. Those days are long gone and a reliance on CGI is the result. Fortunately, Rush doesn’t over-rely on CGI as so many racing films have had to do. You will know what is CGI and what is not. And while we’re stuck with two gratuitous ass shots of Chris Hemsworth in Rush, the creators of Grand Prix would never waste time on something so base. This is why Grand Prix will be higher on the Top 5 list than Rush.

– It doesn’t have the stark realism of LeMans. LeMans was a labor of love by Steve McQueen, with every possible in-car shot, noise, and obsessive technically correct details. And he was there, himself, driving and racing. Steve’s character and his own racing credentials dictated every scene in this film – one reason why it is a must-see for racing enthusiasts. We are there ourselves as drivers, right with Steve, from the first scene where he looks at the track, remembering the travails of last year, preparing himself for the hard and determined work again this year. We’ve been in that situation ourselves, as has some of the audience. By contrast, Ron Howard doesn’t have the credentials (although he does have Niki Lauda) and didn’t set out to make this type of film. Rush is more of a human interest story than a pure racing story – although it will have more than enough racing for the racing fans.

– It doesn’t have the technical nirvana of Super Speedway. We’re not here in Rush to learn how these cars and engines were built, as in Super Speedway. However, like Super Speedway, we do have some extremely well done racing sequences across a season. And remember who won the last race in the epic 1976 Formula 1 season: it was Mario Andretti. Mario is not only one of the most accomplished drivers of all time, anywhere and in any race series (and he has won all the big ones), he is a terrific personality all around.

What Rush does have is a very compelling human interest story of the incredible friendship and competition between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two of the greatest Grand Prix drivers of all time. And it takes place in an age when Formula 1 was very much different from today: far more risky, risking death or mutilation, with far lower safety standards, and always offering actual racing with passing unlike today’s sanitized version. If you are collecting videos of the classic years of Grand Prix racing, and indeed perhaps even preferring those events, this is definitively the movie for you and you’ll rank it right up there with Senna and Grand Prix.

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