'Rush' One Big Scene: Ron Howard Puts the Audience Inside a Deadly Formula One Wreck

One Big Scene is a weekly column dedicated to spectacular visual sequences we’re recommending you see in the theater. If you have ones you’d like us to write about, let us know in the comments section.

 
Earlier on the site, we ran through the movies that we believed had the most thrilling car races, from Grease to Grand Prix. To that list, we have to add Rush, Ron Howard’s new Formula One drama that reconstructs the fabled rivalry between impulsive racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and his calculated rival Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). But the director and his screenwriter, Peter Morgan, use a specific moment in the racers’ years-long rivalry as the focal point of their movie, and it’s there we find this week’s One Big Scene.  
 
The Scene
 
 
Howard’s racing scenes alone are worth the price of a ticket to Rush. The director plunges us into the engines of these miniscule F1 cars, weaving in and out of pistons, positioning his camera under, over and around the cars as they maneuver hairpin turns at death-defying speeds. 
 
And occasionally, these racers crash… as Lauda did on a wet track in 1976 during a German Grand Prix race. Howard stages this sequence with the right blend of tension and horror. Lauda’s car smacks into a wall, and the camera doesn’t linger. We feel the impact, then fear for the driver’s safety. Lauda’s Ferrari is engulfed in flames while he remains in the driver’s seat. A second car comes around the turn, smashing into Lauda’s stationary race car. Lauda eventually is pulled from the fiery wreck, but the damage to his face, body and psyche has been done. 
 
Rush eventually becomes the story of Lauda fighting back from his injuries to be able to race Hunt once again. The movie is fueled by their rivalry, and so when Lauda is knocked out of racing – albeit temporarily – we realize how much more investment we put into Howard’s race sequences when Hunt has a formidable opponent to beat to the finish line. 
 
But we also need to understand the inherent danger to Formula One racing, so by putting us in the driver’s seat for a devastating wreck, Howard delivers the impact without asking us to buckle a seat belt and get in a car. He also earns this week’s One Big Scene. 
 
What Critics Are Saying
 
 
“Brilliantly captures the exhilaration that comes from facing death head-on. It's also an ode to joyous rivalry.”
- Claudia Puig, USA Today
 
“There's a distinct possibility that you don't know or care a lick about Formula 1 racing. After this sexy thrill ride, you will.”
- Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
 
“In a way, Rush is a philosophical drama about the varying ways men move through the world. It's just a really fast drama.”
- Ty Burr, Boston Globe
 
Rush opens everywhere on September 27.
 

 
 

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