Ron Howard took a risk when he decided to make Rush: what qualified the US director with no interest in European Formula One racing to turn the legend of the most heated racing driver rivalry of all time into a movie?

Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth Plays Racing Star & Party Boy, James Hunt.

Howard has admitted he knew nothing about the Hunt/Lauda rivalry of the seventies until he was handed a script by Frost/Nixon writer, Peter Morgan. Morgan's skilful screenwriting wouldn't have been enough to carry the movie on its own though; Rush needed a passionate force in the driving seat. Howard explained to the Wall Street Journal about the spark he saw in the real-life story, and how he planned to turn it into a movie that film fans aside from gearheads could relate to.

Watch The Rush Trailer:

"It was really fun to understand a sport that combines cutting-edge technology with very dangerous competition," he said. "The visceral, cool and sexy element offered a kind of cinematic experience that nowadays exists only with sci-fi," adding that both Hunt and Lauda appealed to him because they were "utterly and entirely individuals."

Set in the golden age of racing, the 1970s, Rush follows the English James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) who are both at the top of their game and in close competition with each other. Party animal Hunt differs drastically from the more studious Lauda, but both men share the same goal: to win the 1976 German Grand Prix.

In a tragic turn, Lauda's car fails and bursts into flames, giving him burns to the face and lungs. After just six weeks he returns to the driving seat, still in bandages, for another face-off against Hunt at the Italian Grand Prix.

Daniel Bruhl
Brühl's Frosty Lauda Could Be Difficult To Connect With.

The movie's premise is certainly interesting: a legendary rivalry just waiting to be turned into a smash-hit movie that would hope to follow films like Senna in its stimulation of racing fanatics as well as casual moviegoers. The LA Times concurs: "there would be nothing remotely risky about making a film about rivals who enjoy taunting each other." The paper continues, saying Rush's crack production team "make the lure and excitement of fast machines palpable on screen," however, Howard's directorial style is judged as too "polished" for the "edginess this story seems to cry out for."

The rivalry between Lauda and Hunt is deemed unconvincing and unthrilling, as the audience find it hard to root for a victor amongst the arrogant Hunt and the unsociable Lauda. Regardless, the NY Times is swept along with the height of the racing glamour instilled by Rush.

Ron Howard
Ron Howard's Rush Has Received Mixed Reviews.

The cinematographic intimacy is praised, as we're led to believe we're in the driver's seat too, and Hemsworth's (Thor) performance as Hunt is described as "truly lovely" whilst Brühl's (Inglorious Bastards) is lauded as "dexterous, textured performance."

So how will Rush fare at the US box office? Having been released in the UK too, the film had a strong debut, taking £2m ($3.3m) and poling just behing Insidious 2's no.1 spot with £2.8m ($4.6m).

Though F1 sports are a lot more popular in Europe than the USA, it seems American audiences will have to ditch their Nascar loyalties for Howard's break-neck ride about the highs and lows of one of the most compellingly fierce sporting rivalries of all time.

Rush is out now in the UK and will be fully released in the USA by 27 September.