“Ron Howard likes to think of himself as one of those chameleon directors, like Billy Wilder and Mike Nichols, who are known not for any one thing, but rather for doing lots of things well,” writes Charles McGrath at the top of his New York Times profile. “He has made so many different kinds of movies that he sometimes seems to be working from a checklist: a pair of whimsical comedies (Cocoon and Splash), a fairy tale (Willow), a holiday film (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), a firefighting movie (Backdraft), a space epic (Apollo 13), a biopic (A Beautiful Mind), a western (The Missing), a boxing film (Cinderella Man), a buddy flick (The Dilemma) and two Dan Brown thrillers (The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons). The obvious gaps on this list are a horror movie and a musical, but Mr. Howard’s newest film, Rush, which opens on Sept. 20 after a gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival next Sunday, fills a much tinier niche. It’s a Formula One car racing movie, a genre that had its heyday, if you can call it one, back in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy notes that Rush sees Howard returning “to the high-speed roots of his directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto (albeit with a budget probably a hundred times bigger)… Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl excel as, respectively, British wild man and hedonist James Hunt and Austrian by-the-books tactician Niki Lauda…. Most modern-era car racing movies, from Grand Prix and Le Mans to Days of Thunder, have been far stronger at portraying the excitement on the track than at developing interesting downtime drama among the characters. But rather the reverse is true with Rush, which offers perfectly coherent racing coverage but devotes far more time to exploring the personalities of two drivers who represented behavioral polar extremes and drove each other to distraction.”
For Variety‘s Peter Debruge, Rush is “not just one of the great racing movies of all time, but a virtuoso feat of filmmaking in its own right, elevated by two of the year’s most compelling performances. It’s high-octane entertainment that demands to be seen on the big screen, assembled for grown-ups and executed in such a way as to enthrall even those who’ve never watched a race in their life.”
“Here’s a Formula One story that’s not just for petrolheads,” agrees David Gritten in the Telegraph, where Mark Salisbury goes long on the film’s making. Rush‘s “texture,” writes Gritten, “is due to screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) who does his usual trick of writing modern ‘history plays,’ accurately rendering known public facts while imagining vivid conversations behind closed doors. The real surprise is that Rush’s director is Ron Howard, whose work is usually marked by competent blandness. Not here, though. Rush induces the adrenalin suggested by its title in its racing scenes: howlingly, teeth-rattlingly loud and cut lightning-fast, in what look to be perilous close-ups.”
“At times, the film veers into buddy movie territory,” writes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent. “The drivers, for all their rivalry and seeming enmity, are utterly fascinated by one another. There is also an attempt to cast Hunt and Lauda as mythic archetypes. All this is only fitfully successful. It’s out on the track itself that Rush really picks up speed and emotional urgency.”
Screen‘s Mark Adams agrees that Rush is “a thrilling film that is driven by energy, intelligence and conviction.”
Michael Cieply profiles Brühl for the New York Times.
Update, 9/5: Alex Godfrey talks with Brühl for the Guardian.
Updates, 9/7: “Were Hunt and Lauda ever exactly like this?” asks Henry Barnes in the Guardian. “Were the 70s? Morgan—wide-eyed and hungry for a great story—doesn’t really seem to care. Rush is fuel-injected drama, a real story honed down to aerodynamic sleekness. Factual accuracy gets whisked away in its wake. Rush is one of the fastest, most enjoyable rides you will take this year.”
But for Ben Kenigsberg, writing at the AV Club, “Rush is basically a foursquare sports film, enlivened by whiplash-inducing, crisply edited racing sequences but otherwise pretty ordinary—certainly not on par with the more grandly scaled craftsmanship in Howard’s Cinderella Man.”
Kevin Jagernauth at the Playlist: “The script by Peter Morgan—in his second collaboration with Howard after Frost/Nixon (they are also working together on the director’s next film, In The Heart of the Sea once again starring Hemsworth)—builds this foundation with a measured opening act that is confident, even if it follows the general template for this kind of film. But it pays off, because once the picture enters the second act, that groundwork is a rich foundation allows Rush to elevate beyond its genre trappings.”
8.6/10 from Laremy Legel at Film.com.
Update, 9/12: Rush opens in the U.K. this weekend, and is scoring pretty good marks in the papers: Nigel Andrews (Financial Times, 4/5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Geoffrey Macnab (Independent, 4/5), and Adam Sweeting at the Arts Desk.
Update, 9/14: Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan interviews Howard.
Update, 9/17: Anne Thompson interviews Brühl.
Updates, 9/19: “Rush is a human story about bodies, if ones almost always in furious motion,” writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT. “It’s also about work, about finding “a drive,” as they say in racing, and keeping it, even after machines and people spectacularly fail. Lauda, who’s seen buying his way into racing with loans (his family didn’t support his passion), isn’t a natural physical specimen or showman like Hunt. Yet one of the movie’s deepening pleasures is how, as the story slyly shifts from one man to the other, it peels back the arrogance encasing Lauda, who’s so abrasive that it’s hard not to root against him, even as Mr. Brühl’s dexterous, textured performance pulls you close.”
“Ron Howard has made a masterpiece about how a dark-haired nerd and a blonde, long-haired free spirit changed each other’s lives,” writes Bilge Ebiri for Vulture. “That movie was called Splash, but I’ll be damned if Rush doesn’t come close, too.”
Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York: “The plot lacks the grease-stained poetry of better gearhead clashes (such as the extraordinary 2010 documentary Senna); cynically, Rush seems to be courting a video-game crowd impatient for another CGI-heavy Fast & Furious.”
For Robert Koehler, writing for arts·meme, Rush “isn’t even occasionally interesting.”
Updates, 9/21: “There’s plenty of cornpone alongside the racetrack curves in Rush, but this is tremendously exciting cinema,” writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, “as well as old-school escapist drama with ample eye candy for viewers of all persuasions.”
For Jesse Hassenger at the L, Rush is “one of Howard’s most engaging films in years.”
Bill Desowitz talks with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle at Thompson on Hollywood.
Updates, 9/27: For Chris Cabin, writing in Slant, the “pitting of a gaudy showman against a near-reptilian intellect brings to mind the power struggle at the heart of Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan’s last collaboration, 2008’s Frost/Nixon. To a certain sect, the competition between Lauda and Hunt might carry a similar importance as the relationship between David Frost and Richard Nixon, but their rivalry isn’t particularly what the filmmakers are interested in. Howard’s main fascination with how these two men toy with fatalism via their sport, but the film never seems to take death all that seriously, not unlike Hunt.”
Julien Allen for Reverse Shot: “Ron Howard doesn’t seem primarily interested in filmmaking at all: his work continues to amount to not much more than a high-speed postal delivery service. It’s on time, safely packaged, and the product corresponds to the description. Sign here, please? No, thanks.”
The San Diego City Beat‘s Glenn Heath Jr. can’t help but think “about what the late Tony Scott would have done with this material. In his hands, each scene (on and off the track) might have felt like a thrilling, life-or-death race of some kind, breathless in ways Howard would never have conceived. But I guess we’ll always have Days of Thunder.”