Films about Formula 1 have a difficult act to follow after the 2011 documentary Senna. Even with all the CGI, big name actors and Oscar winning directors, how can a feature film stand up to the drama of real life racing? Rush at least has a go.
Based on the rivalry between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda in the 1970s, the film picks its way through the early days of their racing to the intensity of the 1976 season. The film’s focus on the competition between drivers veers between something overly artificial to saccharine sweet and elements of the story featuring on Lauda are by far the more engaging, yet are diluted by the portrayal as Hunt as an upper class buffoon.
The biggest problem for me is Chris Hemsworth’s casting as Hunt. I do like Hemsworth, but once an actor becomes the face of a superhero or science fiction icon, it has to take something exceptional to break that mould. As with the other lantern-jawed hunks like Chris Pine as Kirk and Henry Cavill as Superman, Hemsworth has picked up the hammer of Thor and will be stuck with it unless he can really deliver something very different. His Hunt is not quite posh enough, not quite reckless enough, and despite being leaner his physique is still too big for a racing driver. It is like Thor has gone to Weightwatchers, got a shave and wedged himself into a car.
I liked what this film was trying to do in capturing the Hunt/Lauda story, but it didn’t quite grasp the excitement and heart of F1 that Senna has in bucket loads. Comparing a documentary with a feature film may not be the fairest of parallels, but watching Rush I couldn’t help but feel it was missing something. It made me want to re-watch Senna – and wait for the next instalment of Thor.