Rush: A Tribute

It is a pity I did not watch Rush completely in one go till my 6th attempt. Yes, it took me an incredible 6 sittings. And I have loved it since.

It is equally incredible that the makers managed to bring out the human aspect in this fierce rivalry film.

I will admit- my interest in Formula 1 racing is not as old as the 1970s. Nor did I read any history about either of Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The movie review was shared by a friend who knows a thing or two about Formula 1. It was a borrowed conviction that played out well.

If you have not Googled Rush yet, here is a small, concise summary. The movie portrays the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt (England) and Niki Lauda (Austria) in 1976 and how the former trumped the latter by 1 point in the final race of the season. Yes, these are facts- 1 point and in the final race in torrential rain in Japan. The Gods played this pretty nicely.

There are too many subplots in the movie. Niki Lauda’s accident and his sheer willpower to come out of life-threatening condition so that Hunt does not win the title. Similarly, James Hunt’s immense desire to push himself beyond his limit to defeat a warrior like Lauda. The words are not enough.

And the most astonishing fact in all- this was the only season in his F1 career which James Hunt won. He was a prodigy and he was good but apart from the 1976 season; his trophy cabinet was zero. And this is what has fantasized me that led to this piece.

Lauda and Hunt were two opposite characters. Lauda was focused, organized, calculative, and maybe, cocky. He knows when to push himself and when to step back. In a fast world of cars, he had a demeanor of a chess player. Hunt, on the other hand, was everything that Lauda wasn’t. He was brash, impulsive, and enjoyed the attention.

In any sport, there are two types of competitors. One who wins for himself and the other who wins to ensure that the second guy doesn’t win. There is a very fine difference between the two. Lauda was the former, Hunt the latter. James Hunt did not win any other championship ever because he did not find a challenger like Lauda. Hunt had in him to be great but he needed a Lauda to reach for that greatness.

The movie breezes past through you. The graphics, especially the attention to detail during race scenes are superb. A special mention for the race sequence around German Grand Prix 1976, Nuremberg. From the scene when a rainy Nuremberg comes into the picture; you know something is not right. Something’s going to give. And from there on, Rush changes the gear and gets into fast track.

The movie is, of course, about the rivalry. But it is also about how these two men came to respect each other while vying for the same reward. And I found it very satisfying. The best part is that you do not need to be an expert in F1 racing to understand Rush. You can have zilch interest in any sport and still, you will enjoy this.

Few dialogues from the movie have left an indelible impression on me-

Niki Lauda: Of course he didn’t listen to me. For James, one world title was enough. He had proved what he needed to prove. To himself and anyone who doubted him. And two years later, he retired. When I saw him next in London, seven years later, me as a champion again, him as broadcaster, he was barefoot on a bicycle with a flat tire, still living each day like his last. When I heard he died age 45 of a heart attack, I wasn’t surprised. I was just sad. People always think of us as rivals but he was among the very few I liked and even fewer that I respected. He remains the only person I envied.

James Hunt: I feel responsible for what happened.

Niki Lauda: You are… but trust me: watching you win those races, while I was fighting for my life, you were equally responsible for getting me back in the car.

Niki Lauda: Happiness is your biggest enemy. It weakens you. Puts doubts in your mind. Suddenly you have something to lose!

Both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl were perfect in the characters they played. The brashness of James Hunt and the confident arrogance of Nikki Lauda was on full display.

And I do intend this epic movie every time I get a chance.

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