May 23, 2013; Monte Carlo, MONACO; Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (ESP) during practice for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Prevost/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports
By Rob McCurdy of CentralOhio.com for KSDK Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- When it comes to sports movies, Hollywood loves an underdog.
"Rocky," "Hoosiers," "The Bad News Bears," even "Teen Wolf," are about unexpected greatness. The formula may be tried, but it's also tired. "Miracle," "Seabiscuit," "The Blind Side," even "The Water Boy" in recent years have repurposed the same plot.
Mercifully, director Ron Howard and screen writer Peter Morgan had something else in mind when they wanted to do a movie about racing. They went off-camber, as they say in motor sports, and went another direction in "Rush," a movie now in theaters.
Sure, it's got plenty overcoming the odds and a lot of perseverance that one expects from a sports movie, but it explores areas where few in the genre ever go.
The film is based on the lives of Formula One champions James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The duo are rivals in the truest sense and that's where the movies goes.
Maybe in real life the two were friendly - some say even friends - but they were most definitely rivals. Howard and Morgan take us back to 1976 when the duo battled for the F1 championship in their primes.
Beyond that we get a glimpse into the early 1970s when the rivalry was born.
Hunt was the stereotypical playboy race car driver, a moneyed Englishman who liked to party and carouse like so many in the 1970s did. Lauda was his opposite in many ways, a stern Austrian (who also came from money) with an analytical mind and no use for anything that distracted him from becoming a champion driver.
Their contrasts are where the conflict emerges. Lauda cannot understand Hunt's recklessness on the track and in his personal life. Hunt can't understand the joylessness in which Lauda pursues his dream.
If there was a commonality between the two besides immense talent, it was that both entered the sport without the support of their families, each wanting to live life on their own terms, but that wasn't enough to bring them together in this story. The differences were too great.
The story shows the arc of rivalry.
Hunt and Lauda begin as curiosities to one another in the Formula 3 newbies, but soon they grow to despise one another. For what they don't understand about the other, they don't like.
From this hatred is born greatness. Hunt can't stand seeing Lauda succeed and Lauda doesn't like seeing Hunt thrive in such a carefree manner. Wanting to top the other is ultimately what drives both of them to improvement, but to become champions.
But along the way, they grudgingly grow to respect one another, and it is here where the movie separates itself from most everything else in the genre.
The cinematography is breathtaking and the action is unflinching. It nails the mid-70s for those old enough to remember it, plus there are a couple of twists that make the plot interesting for those who don't know the real story of that fateful 1976 season.
But the heart of the movie is its exploration of rivalry: What it means to be rivals and why rivalry is important to sport.
This is what makes "Rush," a rush. It's what makes it a new kind of sports movie.
Rob McCurdy covers motor sports for the Media Network of Central Ohio and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-521-7241.
On Twitter follow @McMotorsport.