Making the Grades
Ron Howard tackles a tough script in the movie Rush where he deals with not one but two protagonists. And although they are polar opposites, it’s hard to feel empathy for either. Based on the real lives of Formula 1 race drivers James Hunt (played Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl), the script details their careers over a period of years during the 1970s when they were staunch opponents on the racetrack.
Lauda comes from a wealthy family that is determined to stop him from participating in the expensive sport by using their influence to keep him from obtaining the money he requires. Unabated he manages to get the cash together without their blessing. Never a man to soften his words, his single-minded determination eventually leads him to the Ferrari company where, after taking one of their prized vehicles around the track, he tells Enzo Ferrari (Augusto Dallara) his vehicle is (substituting for a scatological term) akin to garbage. But Lauda’s skills behind the wheel also extend to his technical abilities under the hood. After tinkering with the Ferrari he squeezes out an impressive performance improvement and wins the founder’s approval. His acquaintance with others at the corporation eventually brings Lauda into the life of Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), a woman who proves to be an understanding support for a man afraid happiness may distract him from winning.
On the other side of the track is the passionate James Hunt. For him the appeals of the sport are entirely different. They include fueling his need for risk-taking behavior, speed and—possibly the biggest benefit—attracting women wherever he goes. (These exploits are depicted in various sexual scenes, some of which include nudity). After his sponsor stongly encourages him to settle down and lead a more responsible life he marries Suzy Miller (Oliva Wilde), a beautiful woman with a modelling career. However the relationship does little to mellow the man who can’t leave danger alone.
Race after race these two competitors come to the finish line one behind the other. Lauda’s consistency, ability to manage risks and his inherent interest in the sport—from the design of the tracks to the intricate mechanical nature of the cars—provides a solid foundation that delivers positive results. But Formula 1 racing is a sport that demands fearless participants and Hunt, either through stupidity or an overdose of testosterone, drives like he’s immortal. That gives him the edge just often enough to keep him in the running.
Then a fateful day arrives. It’s been raining on the already difficult track at Nürburgring Germany. Even though Lauda holds the record on the course, he’s convinced the race should be cancelled for safety reasons. Equally bold in sharing his opinion, James Hunt uses his swagger to persuade the crowd of other drivers that the Austrian is only using the weather as an excuse to eliminate a potential loss. The majority agrees and the race is run. As feared by Lauda, the treacherous conditions do lead to a horrific accident—one that leaves him nearly dead. While the incident forever alters Lauda physically, it also emotionally scars Hunt and his perception of the “enemy”.
Positive messages are available in superbly crafted movie with solid performances and incredible makeup effects and cinematography. However parents should carefully heed the film’s R-rating. Violent depictions of racing accidents include what appear to be a decapitated corpse and a partially missing leg with a bone exposed. Medical procedures are depicted graphically, and aren’t for the faint of heart. Off the track a character beats another, leaving him with bloody facial injuries. If that’s not enough to flatten your tires, you’ll also be privy to various sexual encounters that include breast and buttock nudity, scenes of illegal drug use, lots of drinking and tobacco smoking. (In one instance Hunt partakes and then hits the course—don’t try this at home kids.) Finally expect over a dozen sexual expletives (one in a sexual context) in addition to other crude anatomical, scatological and religious terms.
More than a movie about racing, Rush delves into the intricate relationship between these very different men and the unappreciated benefits of their ongoing friction and rampant competition. In the end Lauda sums it up best by quoting Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Braciá: “A wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” While Rush may not teach us to love our enemies, it certainly reminds us that we can appreciate our opponents.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Rush.
What do you think Lauda means when he says, “A wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” Have you experienced this? Do you think these two men are enemies? What is the difference between enemies and opponents? What other types of challenges can cause us to rise above our self-perceived limitations?
The Nürburgring in Germany is one of the longest and most difficult racing tracks. Driver Jackie Stewart referred to it as the Green Hell. Learn more about this track and discover how you can drive it yourself.