"Our enemy offers us a precious opportunity — to better ourselves."
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) love racing in a sport that compels drivers to go so fast that they risk life and limb. They meet in the lower divisions when Hunt wins over the newcomer by a dangerous move that could have gotten them both killed. Lauda instantly dislikes everything about his carefree and hedonistic rival who seems to eschew discipline and practice. These are virtues to the intense Austrian who left behind a career in his father's prosperous business with dreams of becoming a champion driver.
By the 1976 season, both drivers have blustered their way into Formula 1 racing with Lauda coming up with ways to engineer a faster car and Hunt banking on his daredevil moves that have made him an audience favorite. Tired of his bad reputation as an irresponsible playboy, Hunt meets and marries model Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) who tries to tame him. And during the competitive 1976 season, Lauda weds Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara). Both women know that they are small change in the lives of their men who live for the adrenaline-pumping thrill of racing and defying death. At one point Hunt describes his car: "It's just a little coffin, really, surrounded by high-octane fuel all around — for all intents and purposes, it's a bomb on wheels."
Director Ron Howard and his technical team do a fantastic job of putting on the screen the visceral thrills of fast cars blasting off together and kareening down roadways at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. We watch these two sworn enemies square off against each other both on and off the track. They take turns winning race after race. First the crowds idolize Hunt for his fearless driving and his love of victory. Then later, they cheer for Lauda when he is an underdog.
The top-notch screenplay by Peter Morgan invests these two characters with multiple idiosyncracies — Hunt throws up before each race, and Lauda alienates fellow drivers with his arrogance. But both are driven by an unflagging passion for the sport. The performances by Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth are a wonder to behold, vital and emotionally complex. The relationship between Hunt and Lauda begins in deep hatred and ends up at a place that neither one of them would have, or could have, guessed.
There's a spiritual lesson embedded in this character-driven action drama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a holy man who has suffered mightily at the hands of his enemies, puts it well:
"When we are faced with an enemy, a person or group of people wishing us harm, we can view this as an opportunity to develop patience and tolerance. We need these qualities; they are useful to us. And the only occasion we have to develop them is when we are challenged by an enemy. So, from this point of view, our enemy is our guru, our teacher. Irrespective of motivation, from our point of view enemies are very beneficial, a blessing."
— from The Dalai Lama: Essential Writings
This teaching does not just apply to those suffering from political oppression and religious persecution. It also explains the transformation of two enemies into friends in a Hollywood movie about race car driving — and it can be applied to each and every one of us who has ever faced a difficult person. Rush illustrates once again that the Spirit speaks through all mediums to shake us up and turn inside out our rigid ideas about enemies and the role they can play in our lives.
Special features on the Blu-Ray/DVD include "Race for the Checkered Flag": the making of Rush; explore the film's writing, filming, casting, locations and costumes; The real story of Rush: an in-depth look at the inspiring events and characters of the true story behind Rush; additional features: deleted scenes; and Ron Howard: a director's approach.