Cinema: No guts, no glory on high road to hell

Cinema: No guts, no glory on high road to hell

You don't have to be a rabid racing fan to get a kick out of Rush, Ron Howard's riveting account of the high-octane rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970s, when the sport was less inundated with rules and more alive with personalities.

The decision to focus on two men who had little in common apart from their love of racing - and their dramatic battle for the championship during the 1976 season - is understandable, given the made-for-the-movies back stories of the protagonists and the anything-goes sensibility of the 1970s - a time when cigarette sponsors, independent teams and raw talent played major roles and put a much different spin on the sport, in stark contrast to the well-oiled business machine that is F1 these days.

The romantic notion that race car drivers - with Formula One pilots at the pinnacle of the profession - were modern-day knights in shining armour was tempered by the fact that one or more among them was destined to perish in a fiery crash during the course of a season. Guts and glory - not safety and self-preservation - were the order of the day.

That's why James Hunt was a perfect creature for the times: a fast-living, free-spirited, blonde-maned gentleman driver in one explosively quick package.

On the opposite end of the scale there was Niki Lauda, a driver who used precision, preparedness and an analytical eye to his advantage - aspects of the professionalism in the sport that are now taken for granted.

The story of the 1976 season is known to anyone familiar with Formula One history, but director Howard still manages to inject drama and suspense into Rush - along with a driver's eye view of the track and an excellent approximation of the sights and sounds associated with a classic Formula One race.

The film's narrative is deceptively simple: Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is an ill-disciplined type with a playboy lifestyle and an annoying ability to win races after partying all night.

He has few equals (in bed or on the racetrack) until Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) appears on the scene with his unlikeable persona and his boring-but-effective approach to racing.

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