Rush (2013)

IMDB plot:

The merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

We can’t stop here, this is spoiler country. Also, I’ll keep jumping between reality and movie all the time, because this is based on real facts.

First disclaimer: I’m a Formula 1 fan. Second disclaimer: Even if you don’t like Formula 1, you may like this movie. Why? Because Formula 1 is just a background noise used to tell you a much larger story.

Going forward: The movie focus on the events in the 1976 season of Formula 1, when Niki Lauda fierce competition with James Hunt reached its apex. Who, you may ask? Sure, you can ask. And this is answered at two points in the movie: In the first 10 minutes and in the last 5, showing perfectly the changes each driver had in the curse of the season.

But the movie starts before the 1976 season. It shows both drivers starting on Formula 3, going to Formula 1 till the end of the 1976 season, when both had equipareted cars (as Hunt says in the movie), passing through Hunt downfall, his sudden luck in the very start of 1976 season, Lauda terrible accident in Nürburgring that year and what happened after that.

Acting is alright. I mean, Daniel Brühl did an absolutely killer job at Inglourious Basterds and although his presentation here isn’t at the same level, it isn’t bad either. Or maybe Lauda is really that taciturn, in which Daniel does a perfect impression. Chris Hemsworth is a weird case. I mean, it isn’t bad, but his lines feel a lot… unnatural in the whole. On the other hand, when the movie shows real images of Hunt, you can see that Hemsworth managed to capture all the manerisms in a nearly identical fashion.

Sadly, everyone else is mostly decorative. Olivia Wilde/Suzy Hunt nee Miller and Alexandra Maria Lara/Marlene Lauda are important to the plot — added aspects in the way both drivers changed their personalities and showing how different their lifestyles were — but they are in no way given enough focus.

On the other hand, I have to seriously compliment Ron Howard in the way he directed the movie, Hans Zimmer for the music and the whole sound editing team. And by that I mean the continuous use of different things to show the emotional state of the movie: the blurred vision of Lauda when he’s afraid and returning to his normal, confident self — in an scene that comically reminded me of “Days of Thunder” and “pilot narrowly escapes another tragedy and regains his full confidence clichè –; the muffling of track sounds (including the whole start up line roaring of engines) when the drivers close their helmets; the really really slow motion scenes in the very start of the Japan GP, the last one that would say if Lauda would win the championship or if Hunt would be crowded, showing the tension in the air; the engine pistons working first in slow motion and then slowly going into normal speed when Hunt goes back into his original, fighting self. All those make the movie simply great, by using other effects than simply camera or someone saying something.

(Just a small sidenote: Zimmer works is getting greater each movie he works on.)

Sure there is more drama than reality in the movie, but it doesn’t mean the story behind isn’t interesting and that the drama destroys the story — after all, this is not a biographical movie, but “based on real facts”. There is a whole scene about Hunt punching a reporter due an aggresive question about Lauda appearance post-accident which nobody can confirm it really happened, but people who knew Hunt said “Yeah, that is something he would do.” So, even if it is a drama “based on real facts”, there is too much ressoancen with real life that even if some situations really didn’t happen, at least it is something people who knew the real “actors” in this say “yeah, it could’ve happened.”

I can’t vouche the movie for the actors, but I can seriously recommend it based solely on the work of Howard, Zimmer and the sound team. So go watch it, it is worth.

Senna (2010)

The usual IMDB Plot:

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.

The usual spoiler alert… Wait a freaking second, this is documentary! It’s like asking to not spoil the result of the World War II.

So I finally watched the documentary that, at some point, was said to be the “highest rated documentary on IMDB” (although today it doesn’t even appear in the first page). I reckon it didn’t catch much attention around, as most people are not Formula 1 fans and most people are not Brazilians in their mid twenties or older.

So, let me put this (and specially that last phrase) in context: It was the late 80s, early 90s and Brazil was still recovering from a military dictatorship. Inflation was growing like crazy and the feeling from the general population wasn’t so happy. So there was a great need for a circus (the bread part was a bit harder) and, at this time, this guy, who raced in one of the most expensive racing sports, was considered brilliant by experts and would say he was Brazilian any time he had the chance and displayed the Brazilian flag proudly on every victory and that gave the Brazilian people some hope.

(And people forgot the fact that he came from a very wealthy family — he was the 1%, or even the 0.1% at the time — but remember fondly his Foundation, created to help poor kids, which only existed after he became famous.)

The problem with this documentary is mostly the way it was edited, to give a more “drama!” vision of the events: You have the hero, the rival and the evil.

The hero is, obviously, Ayrton Senna. They show how the people loved him, how impressive his driving was, how he was a bon vivant…You know, the guy you want to be (or have a close friend). In no point, the documentary shows anything negative about him — and, honestly, I think the Brazilian press shielded things like that pretty nicely, as I can’t remember anything bad about him.

The rival is Alain Prost, who Senna had problems since the very beginning of his career. I remember that, recently, someone asked Prost his opinion about the movie and he said that it painted him as the bad guy and I totally agree with his commentary. There is this bad light put over his shoulders in the movie, his driving skills are mentioned hastily and without depth and there is absolutely no word about his personal life. But, again, a good drama needs an antagonist and Prost was used for this. Oh, not only that, but in the very end, when they talk about Senna’s death, Prost is shown helping carry the casket and with distraught face; the bad guy turned to be a good guy in the end. As I said, just so it feels like a real drama movie.

The evil is Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FIA at the time Senna was racing. The movie goes great lengths to show that Balestre did everything in his power to grant Prost victories over Senna and would take any chance to block the Brazilian progress in the sport. The movie also cleverly does this 2 years after Balestre’s death, so he had to way, as Prost did, to give some words about it. I’ll give the chance of doubt to the filmmakers, as (maybe) Balestre was a total dick (as the movie portraits him) after all, but one has to ask if such thing was really necessary for a documentary.

In the end, it’s a good documentary to remember Senna (if you actually remember seeing him driving) or to get some insight from one of the most known personas in Formula 1. Otherwise, it’s just an average documentary with too much drama and little documentary.