Cinema: On track for dicing with death

Cinema: On track for dicing with death
US director Ron Howard poses during the photocall of the movie "Rush", presented in Rome on September 14, 2013. The movie tell the story of the merciless rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 70's.

Fast cars, rock 'n' roll, beautiful women, bad boys: At first glance, Rush looks like your routine action-adventure of a typical petrolhead movie.

Throw in an arresting rivalry between Thor star Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, the German star of Good Bye Lenin! (2003), and you might get a few more hearts a-flutter.

But it is the flirtation with mortality - a 20 per cent chance of dying each time one went to work, as the film's real-life protagonist Niki Lauda says - which ignites Ron Howard's latest film.

Directed by the man who made The Da Vinci Code (2006) and written by Peter Morgan of Frost/Nixon (2008) fame, the 122-minute film recreates the glamour and grit of the well-known and historic rivalry between 1970s Formula One drivers James Hunt and Lauda.

"We're always curious about people who are so close to death," says Howard, who was at London's Corinthia Hotel with his cast recently to promote the movie.

"It's a kind of titillation. There's also the unusually interesting rivalry - not just standard, more extreme. It's insightful, raw, also entertaining and emotional. This is sort of Frost/Nixon meets A Beautiful Mind with the filmic challenges of Apollo 13," he adds, referring to two previous films he directed, in 2001 and 1995 respectively.

Set in the 1970s, Rush tracks the real-life careers of Hunt, an English-born playboy, and Lauda, the scion of an Austrian business empire. In history and onscreen, they could not be more different. Hunt, who won the world championships once, in 1976, was a posh public schoolboy trying to prove his rough edges, living as if each day were his last.

Lauda, a three-time world champion (1975, 1977, 1984), was calm and composed - obsessively mathematical about driving, machines, speed and risks - only to involve himself in a horrific car crash that turned his and Hunt's fortunes around in 1976.

Everyone knows the story by now: Lauda made a miraculous recovery, minus his right ear, to compete again - a mere six weeks after his accident - although Hunt eventually won the season's championship.

While Hunt died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 45 on account of his excessive lifestyle, Lauda went on to launch and run a successful airline business and restart his racing career as Jaguar's F1 manager.

With major plot twists already known to the public and an "un-American" sport for a movie theme, where is the punchline?

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