Fasten your seat belts for the fastest thrill ride of 2013! Ron Howard’s best film since A Beautiful Mind chronicles Formula One during the mid-’70s—the deadliest era for one of the world’s deadliest sports—and dramatizes the true story of champions James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), whose rivalry mirrored Frazier/Ali and Borg/McEnroe. Peter Morgan’s screenplay evenhandedly illuminates the destructive and empowering aspects of their competition. Hemsworth and Brühl channel two genius drivers with divergent personalities: Hunt, the cavalier, reckless playboy versus serious, disciplined Lauda, whose obsession with besting Hunt culminates in a crescendo of flames that nearly kills him.

Befitting Howard’s filmmaking, production values are superb. F1 proves the perfect canvas for spectacular sonics as automotive shrieks and growls probe the extremes of frequency and dynamic range. Recorded detail and Foley effects are likewise stellar: Listen for the soft click of camera shutters and muffled voices during press conference scenes. Multichannel performance is better still. Cars zoom across the audio channels as effortlessly as they glide along the track. Left-to-right and front-to-rear pans are gloriously articulated. Be warned: If your speakers aren’t perfectly matched and highly capable, you’ll know it! is even better than sound, achieving reference quality in terms of color and detail. The lack of saturated reds and greens is deceptive, as colors are both neutral and natural. But while cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s color palette might be restrained, his lavish use of new-tech cameras is downright decadent and places viewers in the driver’s seat of a racecar more convincingly than any film in my experience. Black level is supremely nuanced, as evidenced in footage of tires, track, and especially water pooling on asphalt. Fine detail is stunningly resolved: Check out the luminescent drape of Hemsworth’s red jumpsuit or the microscopic accuracy of eyes and skin during close-ups.

Movie and motorsport fans alike will revel in the abundance of high-quality extras. A series of short documentaries places drivers and rivalry in historical context. The dozen-odd deleted scenes are glorious. Rush demonstrates how competitive frenzy can drive a man to the brink of death and the pinnacle of heroism. Perhaps the greatest auto-racing movie ever made, and one of the best Blu-rays you’ll see.

Studio: Universal, 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 163 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde