If there’s anything more viscerally exciting than watching Formula 1 auto racing, it’s got to be seeing a great movie about Formula 1 auto racing. The thrill of victory, the agony of premature hearing loss – it’s all there, along with the life-threatening danger, the prestige, and the beautiful women lurking like speed-bumps behind every hairpin turn.
Trouble is, making a great film on this subject is an extremely challenging enterprise. For one thing, F1 is relatively unknown in the United States. There have been very few American drivers, and all of the exotic, outrageously expensive cars are made overseas. For decades, the gold standard for auto racing films was set by visionary director John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, which follows a fictional set of characters during the 1967 F1 season and which thrust James Garner’s impressive early career to an even higher level.
With the maturation of computer graphics and the changing economics of the movie business, which depends more and more on overseas box office, director Ron Howard’s Rush is poised to challenge Grand Prix’s 45-year lead on the Smackdown track. Can Howard’s brand new, true story Rush score the victory? Or does James Garner’s fictional battle for the F1 Championship still have the winning formula?