DVD Release Date: January 28, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: September 27, 2013 (wide)
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 123 min. 
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Christian McKay

A formulaic movie about Formula 1 racing might sound like the sort of thing that would appeal only to Formula 1 fanatics, while a story about dueling racers might sound like another take on Top Gun and its ilk. Who feels the need for speed when we've seen movie after movie about rival protagonists who push each other to be their best?

If you're thinking such thoughts about Rush, you're right to be cautious. But the new film from director Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon) is such an accomplished piece of mainstream commercial filmmaking that it’s difficult to dislike. Indeed, as the rivalry between drivers Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl, Joyeux Noel) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) heats up, it's hard not to get caught up in the high-speed, high-risk competition between the two men. If that weren't enough, Rush explores not only the will to be the best, but how to be the best—whether disciplined training precludes indulgence and a hedonistic lifestyle.

Set during the 1970s, Rush reflects not only the rise of Formula 1 racing, but the loose sexual morals of the pre-AIDS culture. Hunt, an English playboy, has no trouble bedding women, as the film's early scenes make clear (contrasted with Howard's well-known family entertainments like Splash, Cocoon, Willow and Apollo 13, Rush is racy in more ways than one.) But Hunt's success with the ladies isn't matched by his performance on the racetrack. He's having trouble landing corporate sponsors and moving up through the racing ranks.

Niki Lauda is Hunt's ultimate target. Not only is Lauda a more successful driver, he's a disciplined professional, devoting himself to a lifestyle that he believes is required to reach the top tier of his profession. Rather than stay out late partying, Lauda lives a quiet, dull life off the track. He also has something to prove to himself and to his father, who once told him he'd never succeed in pursuing his passion for racing.

Hunt doesn't have those same obstacles to overcome. Blessed with good looks and great driving skills, he's determined to topple Lauda from his perch atop the Formula 1 rankings. Along the way, he celebrates his victories by indulging in women, alcohol and drugs, even after he marries (what's the use in winning races if you can't party hard afterward?).

Lauda maintains an intense discipline in his life, but he too find a spouse (Alexandra Maria Lara, The Reader). However, he can't quite reconcile himself to the contentment that marital union brings. When Lauda declares that happiness is "the enemy" in life, you might agree with another character's response to Lauda’s statement: "Then you’ve already lost."