Once in a while you get to see a film that is so full of urgency that you are still reeling after its over. Pretty much like the engines of the cars in “Rush”. The film doesn’t really waste a lot of time in things that don’t matter. It relentlessly avoids what’s not necessary. Like many race sequences, it simply shows us the leaderboards and standings, and shows races which are important, and so is done for the dramatic quotient as well.
The film skips melodrama for the acid soaked chemistry between its spectacular leads. In one scene a journalist asks Niki Lauda about the on going success of James Hunt, he replies by saying, “Is this a question or an attempt to piss me off”. Everyone chuckles after seeing how Niki is, indeed, treating his burns, and post accident trauma. The accident doesn’t change, but adds to, the already competitive rivalry between the two, diametrically opposite racers. Though despite their differences, they respect each other’s spirit, and more or less like a superhero-supervillain combination, without a hero or a villain, come to terms with the fact that they, perhaps, need each other. More than anything else, just to be alive on the track.
Other than striking imagery, and adrenaline fuelled action, that has come off my brain, since immediately after that I watched “The Lunchbox”, and it has been more than 4 days since I watched the film, what I still can respond to are the scenes in which a journalist, out of his exploitative side, asks Niki about how his wife is taking his burnt face, and almost consciously infuriates Niki. Niki’s candidness and his acceptance of the fact that James’ win brought him back to the field, and his acknowledgement drives James affection for Niki even further, and find the journalist and beat him. Like the way any friend would do for his friend, there was a hidden current of male bonding searing throughout this film. And, in the end, it was a film about male bonding that rose out of rivalry in their field.
I am usually fascinated by movies in which on screen drama is, by the matter fact, stripped off of a lot of fiction. I mean, even if certain parts were dramatized, in fact a major part of the film seems it is, but still it should feel the read deal. So in a way you know what happened, or how the season ended, what happened in between the season, what led to what we see on film. But even then you are glued to the screen, when each and every water droplet that splashes when those tyres zoom through the wet roads, when Niki gives up his race for his wife, who is clearly worried, and is not at all regretful of leaving the race. These are real people, who leave the race and defy the saying “there is no second place”. For the truth, in his own words, Niki said, “There is no title worth my life”. And I am immediately hooked by this gesture. In a way, both won. He won his life, James did his title. Later on, Niki went on to win more titles and James retired three years later to become a commentator. What really they did win was value, and the sport in its true spirit.
Sport is, perhaps, a great way of bringing people together, like films. Where an American film maker will make a Hollywood film with a German actor playing an Austrian character who drives for an Italian team. Such mediums are invariably successful in bringing people together, and when there are people who are equally good and bad on screen, the viewers are as well. No matter why, I, who is not really a Formula One follower, got enthralled by this film. After all a film isn’t a sport, and a sport isn’t a film, but that doesn’t mean that the levels of satisfaction do not cross each others boundaries and intermingle.
Though I found the last voice over (by Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda) a bit jarring, a real clip of Niki and James conversing as racers had me smiling. He says he envied him, but also he respected him, or probably, he was one the very few he did. But that image mesmerized me, both dressed up for a race, or probably after one. I kept thinking, what were they talking? About the race? About their cars? Life? Their wives? Or the weather in that country? Or, is there a good place to hangout near by? Its possible they were talking all of it. Or something else completely, but they looked content. And that is the spirit of movies, and the spirit of sportsmanship, and life overall.