Hans Zimmer’s theme prelude a sorrow and worries start, a heavily clouded sky fades in, a close-up of a fear-filled eye, a wet and ponded ground, a race car tire, cut to Niki Lauda looking concerned, waiting in his Formula 1 car. On the other side; 70‘s sexy girls in the arms of the handsome looking driver James Hunt. Zimmer’s music rises stronger, heroic and fatalist, the cars take off. We are at the starting point of the Formula 1 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring in 1976, a critical race in the Formula 1 history. The tension is on.
The multi award wining american director, Ron Howard, not being familiar with Formula 1 racing when assigned to direct this historical subject was a big challenge for both himself and the F1 fans. Howard said he was aware of the tension between Hunt and Lauda in the news back then as his acting career also peaked around the same time. He learned about Formula 1 by heart and fell in love with it just like when he was preparing for his successful “Apollo 13” and we all know how fantastic and intriguing work he has delivered before and now once again, he proved with “Rush”.
The Austria based UK writer & producer Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is a personal friend with the Austrian driver Niki Lauda. Morgan and Lauda worked side by side on the story, and with Howard they all agreed on giving more attention to the friendship and the tension between these two men instead of making another car race film or documentary lacking of human touch.
The biggest challenge was actually to recreate the 1976 atmosphere and Lauda’s nearly fatal crash with today’s film equipment and technique combined with the 1976 documented footage without any glitch. The British Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle (The Last King of Scotland, 127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, Dogville, 28 Days Later) wanted to create a documentary like feature with shots close to the cars, lower to the ground and right next to the drivers’ eyes. He used 9 different camera systems, old lenses and sometimes up to 27 cameras in one shot to shoot a race as realistic as possible.
Both Daniel Brühl (Goodbye Lenin!, Inglorious Bastards) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have done a wonderful job to reincarnate the extremely rational and determined Ferrari driver Niki Lauda (64 today) and the chain smoking, often drunk, womanizer and genius McLaren driver James Hunt (died at age of 45 in 1993). The difference and the contrast between these two Formula 1 champions is very well defined, which makes the audience appreciate even more when we see both actually cherish the same passion and the spirit of the car racing light two medieval knight.
According to Lauda, the film is very accurate. Back then, the F1 racing was very dangerous. The drivers risked 20% of fatal crash or engine failure whenever they were off to race on the track. And when Lauda crashed and was badly burned, coming back to the race with his half burned face after only 6 weeks cure in the hospital, the tension of race is quickly on again between them and another heavy rain race is waiting for them to risk their lives at the Japan Grand Prix for the audience in front of the television transmission.
No matter you are a Formula 1 fan or not. You’ll be driven by the beautiful Monaco Grand Prix’s color and the famous in and out tunnel track, and Your heart will race with the car by the very realistic shots and the breathtaking editing. Or simply go enjoy the two fabulous actors and their muses play by Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara (Control) and Nathalie Dormer (The Tudors). – Shumaï Chou