Movie Premiere: Rush

The year is 1976, when sex was safe and racing was dangerous. The Formula One World Championship is up for grabs, and it’s a grudge match. British race driver James Hunt goes mano a mano with Austrian race driver Niki Lauda, both driving pedal to the metal, with absolutely no margin for error and loving every minute of it. As Hunt explains, “The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.” Director Ron Howard accelerates out of his comfort zone, and you’re sitting beside him, on the ride of your life.

Leslie: Wow! The smell of burning rubber, the sight of twisted metal flying through the air, the sound of five-hundred horses screaming at you. Just, wow.
Ken: I agree! That was a heck of a movie.
Leslie: Actually, I was talking about my drive to the screening. I almost didn’t make it. But yes, the movie was amazingly good too.
Ken: Ron Howard has a reputation for making good, safe, workmanlike films. Much like the race-car drivers in the film, he pushes the limits on this one.
Leslie: It wasn’t exactly experimental cinema, but everything about it was done beautifully. I hope Howard’s work is widely appreciated. This is a great historical drama, based on a true story.
Ken: There was even some terrific comedy, The hitchhiking scene in the Italian countryside made me laugh out loud. Just beautifully written by Peter Morgan, and exactly in character.
Leslie: Next time we hitchhike in Tuscany, we’ll see which of us can stop cars faster. Speaking of screenwriting, instead of the usual good-guy versus bad-guy story, this film has two gray guys. Much like in racing itself, one of the stars wins our affections, then the other guy catches up, and suddenly we’re rooting for him. This film is an example of a master filmmaker at work.
Ken: Howard was as confident in his abilities as the two race drivers. This movie takes you into a world that you might have only passing knowledge, or interest in, and grabs your attention and never lets go.
Leslie: It was a Doppler-shifted adrenaline rush, that’s for sure. If this film doesn’t stir your soul, you should check to make sure you have a pulse. I was on the edge of my seat during every race scene.
Ken: The picture editing added to the excitement. The close-ups of engine bits and pieces was visual poetry. And all the racing sequences, while sometimes too brief, were thrilling to watch.
Leslie: I wasn’t too thrilled about the Freudian visuals. Race cars are sexy, pistons are sexy - I get it. I didn’t need a sex ed video too.
Ken: Well, much like my memories of the 70’s, the film was R rated.
Leslie: Seriously? Weren’t you already over the hill in the 70s? The film even had a 70’s look, with some grain giving it a documentary look at times to match the archival footage. That added realism.
Ken: Of course, the sound design played an important role. Howard took great pains to make it authentic. His recordist put mics all around the tracks, and recorded historic Formula One cars.
Leslie: Even better, Howard had the recordist stay through the post production to make sure the final mix had the right sounds. When you see a Ferrari, you hear the sound of the actual car. Heaven forbid you see a McLaren and hear a Lotus.
Ken: I hate it when that happens. And, the recordist was a racing fan, and even made sure the gearbox sounds of each car were correct.
Leslie: I appreciated the accuracy. Even better, the automotive sounds were nicely integrated into the soundtrack. The mixing of the dialogue, engines and score was excellent - a beautifully choreographed mix. In one race, they let the sound effects take center stage until the cars are across the grid, then the music and motion of the racing takes over.
Ken: The automotive sounds were a real trip. F1 cars roaring through the surrounds - it doesn’t get any better than that. I guarantee that we’ll be seeing some of these clips at CES.
Leslie: This will be a great movie to showcase a home theater. Sci-fi movies create artificial sounds for imaginary creatures. This one uses real sounds that showcase the power of real, accurate sound design. The starting grid of the races were just so visceral - I would love to hear that sound live.
Ken: Trust me - it’s LOUD. This might be weird, but the the subtle construction of the room tones really caught my ear. In a scene in an English manor, in a drivers’ meeting before a big race, and other scenes, when I closed my eyes and just listened, I was there.
Leslie: I heard the same thing. Again, attention to detail and an obvious appreciation for accuracy gave the film a sense of realism that’s often missing. Shifting gears, what about the music?
Ken: Hans Zimmer took the pole position on this one, for the umpteenth time in his career. The music was rhythmic and positively driving.
Leslie: Exactly. It was as relentless as the race drivers and their machines. The methodical music while Lauda is modifying a car, the emotional yet somber music before a particularly dangerous race - all expertly matched to the picture, and superbly mixed with the effects.
Ken: You even hear the inevitable chorus during a climatic racing sequence.
Leslie: And solo cello. Zimmer’s playing with emotions was phenomenal. I loved how he used instruments that fit the era. Lots of Zeppelin-esque guitars - raw, powerful, and gut-wrenching.
Ken: The music also has some of the deepest bass notes you’ll ever hear. The poor subs in our screening theater could only sputter.
Leslie: I can’t wait to test my sub with this Blu-ray, and I might even get just the soundtrack as well. I was also impressed with how the score builds and builds throughout the movie. Each race seems more exciting than the last, and last race has the best music of them all, with a hammering pulse running throughout.
Ken: Agreed. Zimmer didn’t just write scenes, he wrote the entire movie. I liked the shout-out to Hunt’s turntable - the coolest technology of that era.
Leslie: Also, in places, the soundtrack itself had a definite 70’s feel - who doesn’t love a little David Bowie?
Ken: I liked the way the titles were flown in - very retro. Not to mention the 70’s clothes. I’m glad I saved all my wardrobe.
Leslie: Well, Halloween is coming up. You could come dressed as Lauda.
Ken: Hmmm. On the other hand, you’d be a dead ringer for fashion model Suzy Miller.
Leslie: Is that flattery, or sarcasm? Okay! The checkered flag is coming down!
Ken: I really liked this film. It swept me into the world of F1 racing, gave me insight into the intense rivalries of two racing legends, and let me watch some thrilling historic races. The “thrill of victory - agony of defeat” thing really came alive.
Leslie: I went into the film knowing nothing about these two men, and haven’t been as riveted to a movie in a long time. I loved the drama, I loved the characters, and most of all, I ended up loving the sport of Formula One racing. Mmmm - fast cars....
Ken: Want to take your Lotus out for a spin?
Leslie: Sure, and I’ll kick your Porsche’s rear end.