Rush review

Brilliant biopic takes us back to a time when 'the sex was safe and the driving was dangerous'

Sexy. Thrilling. Frantic. Dangerous. These are the type of words used to describe Formula One racing in the 1970s. They're hardly the sort of words that immediately spring to mind when you think of the films of Ron Howard (More like: Safe. Pair. Of. Hands), however, which is why we worried when he was attached to this film about the legendary rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

But we needn't have fretted. Whether it was working out of his comfort zone or merely the influence of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, Howard has seemingly discovered a new lease of life as a filmmaker, bringing a swaggering sense of energy, style and danger to the film. It's a startling change of pace for the veteran director – and one that makes us wonder where this Ron Howard has been hiding all our life.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl give absolutely outstanding performances as Hunt and Lauda. And it's thanks to their endless charisma (not forgetting writer Peter Morgan's terrific dialogue) that Rush remains every bit as exhilarating away from the track as it does during the races.

Picture: Rush's AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode might not quite make it into pole position for hi-def transfers, but it comes a very close second.

The palette pushes yellows, greens, blues and reds to the fore, all of which appear well saturated on this Blu-ray release (although instances of banding do arise from time to time – such as that seen in Lauda's red helmet as he gets into his Formula 3 car in Chapter 1). One knock-on effect of the colour timing is that blacks can sometimes look a little flat or show a blue tint, but again it's true to the source material.

Fine detailing is even more exciting, particularly whenever the film takes us into the cockpit alongside the drivers. The intricacy inherent in the close-up of Hemsworth's eye during the sequence where his team drill holes in his visor in the build up to the Japanese Grand Prix (Chapter 10) is enough to take your breath away.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: From the very first minute, where the pre-race commentary slowly builds in volume through the rear speakers, it's easy to tell that no effort has been spared in creating a fully immersive soundscape for Rush. This impression is only enhanced a few minutes later when your subwoofer kicks into life, growling ferociously as those wonderfully powerful F1 engines start turning over.

If it's no surprise that so much effort has been spent on the race sequences, the good news is that Rush's DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix also impresses elsewhere. The dialogue is always given the priority in the mix it needs, there's plenty of ambience across the soundstage in every location, and Hans Zimmer's score is brought to life with effortless musicality.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: At first glance, StudioCanal's Blu-ray doesn't look like it has much to offer in the way of bonus material, with the Special Features sub-menu offering up just three options – Race for the Chequered Flag: The Making of Rush, The Real Story of Rush and Deleted Scenes. Thankfully, the first two of these house a series of featurettes providing a fair amount of insight into the film's production and the events and people that inspired it.

In Race for the Chequered Flag… you'll find 32 minutes of goodies in the form of an interview with writer Peter Morgan; a piece about casting Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl; shooting the film; how the production team used one location to double for racetracks around the world; costume/production design; and a look at Ron Howard's approach to directing. Along the way there are interviews with all of the principal cast and crew, as well as some extremely choice soundbites from Niki Lauda.

The Real Story of Rush offers up three featurettes (totalling 19 minutes) looking at the story behind the movie. Here we learn about the real Hunt and Lauda, the F1 cars used in the film, and the rock 'n' roll life style that surrounded the sport in the '70s. And while none of the ten deleted scenes are truly essential, nor are they entirely superfluous either.

For those who want a more, Sainsbury's has an exclusive Blu-ray release which includes a bonus disc of extras. Although not available for review, StudioCanal assures us it includes exclusive UK interviews with Ron Howard, Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Niki Lauda, a world premiere featurette and six additional behind-the-scenes vignettes.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: We'd have appreciated a few more extras, but otherwise this disc comes top of the Blu-ray race

Rush, StudioCanal, Region B BD, £25 Approx