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‘Rush’: A Racing Movie Where Formula Won

Ron Howard’s “Rush” arrives just as Formula One is trying to find a parking space in the psyche of sports-minded America, which has preferred up till now to watch its race cars go around in circles. The British champion James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), dangerously handsome, dangerous behind the wheel, is in racing for the glory, the fun and the not-always-well-chosen women.

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Hunt’s chief rival is Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), a Teutonic perfectionist with a matter-of-fact awareness of his own superiority, no compunction about explaining it to anyone who questions him, and a certain satisfied joy in describing a competitor’s failings to his face. He exists beyond arrogance, but in close proximity to loathsome. Focused on the 1976 racing season, “Rush” travels from the great European tracks to South Africa and Japan, as the Hunt-Lauda rivalry—no other drivers seem to exist—seesaws back and forth, with personal speed-bumps occasionally intruding on the aerodynamics: At one point, Hunt’s estranged wife, the ravishing Suzy (Olivia Wilde), takes up with the actor Richard Burton, to the delighted agitation of the tabloids and Hunt’s vague displeasure. Lauda’s setbacks are far more serious. Without giving too much away, his recovery involves scenes far more disturbing than anything that happens on the track.

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