Rush ★★★★½

"It's a lovely way to live, and the only way to drive; to live each day as if it's your last." - James Hunt

One thing that strikes you about Rush is the heat it gives off. The smouldering rubber, the ever-present cigarettes, and of course, the white-hot rivalry between its two protagonists. There's immense pleasure to be found in the sharp quipping and odd admiration between the two polar opposites; one passionate and all about speed, the other controlled and all about statistics. Howard's film succeeds in bringing Hunt and Lauda's relationship to vibrant life, and isn't afraid to shy away from the darker side of both of them.

The opening is something of beauty. A simple opening scene that Lauda narrates sets up both characters is a marvellous introduction to them both: Lauda stares contemplatively at the sky, low down in his driver's seat, while Hunt takes in the celebrity by posing with a group of beautiful women. The proxemics and staging of this scene are hardly original, but it works wonderfully and sets the mood for things to come.

One thing that is original about this though, is the stance it takes in terms of its shooting of the racing sequences. Nothing is left unshot. I mean, NOTHING. Pistons, exhaust pipes and even the blades of grass that the cars slice up and throw up in their wake are covered by Anthony Dod Mantle's camera, all combining to create a high-octane experience that marks 2013 as a brilliant year for innovative and pulse-pounding action. The metal-on-metal, tyre-on-asphalt races are among the greatest ever created, which should elevate Rush to the sport-biopic classic status it deserves.

But for all the technical wizardry, it would fail on every level if it were not for the human hearts behind it. Yet, amazingly, it doesn't let up on this either. Hemsworth and Brühl give career-best performances that they're going to have to work hard to beat. To petrolheads, these two are iconic superstars, so they must have the credibility to embody the roles. And they really do, with flying colours. Hemsworth is fantastic as the prattish, public-schooled lothario Hunt, but he's eclipsed by Brühl. Brühl gives one of the best performances of the year, and really makes Lauda a loveable if flawed anti-hero who provides the emotional core for the film. He even has the occasional Rocky moment: those moments that inspire you, make you want to punch the air and cry with despair, hope and joy. If Brühl doesn't get nominated for either Best Leading or Best Supporting Actor come awards season, I will be seriously shocked.

Rush is a film that takes a little while to get into the swing of things, but origins stories often do, so this is no bad thing. Once it gets its stride, I'd go so far as to say it's one of the most thrilling sports films I've ever seen. Atmospheric, involving and full of emotion, it's exactly the unexpected surprise you would like it to be.

Simon liked these reviews