Ron Howard’s biopic of the intense but short rivalry between Formula 1 Austrian driver Nicky Lauda and Brit James Hunt is a textbook Hollywood film. The characters are compelling, the milieu is exciting and the pace is perfect. Daniel Bruhl, as the icy, methodical Lauda, and Chris Hemsworth, as the sybarite, daring Hunt, play their undemanding roles with vigor, but Howard’s depiction of the danger and thrill of Gran Prix racing is the star, and following the two drivers through the treacherous straits of the ’76 season is a kick. Howard likes to mine various subcultures, but the results are often overburdened by the director’s earnestness. The Paper was nothing less than a love letter to a journalism long since dead. Apollo 13 is as much about the geekdom of NASA as the three stranded astronauts. Backdraft‘s offering of every firefighting insiderism couldn’t overcome the vacuity of Billy Baldwin and a preposterous story, but you could feel Howard’s awe of these urban saviors ooze all over you. Rush, however, has the advantage of being written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Howard’s Frost/Nixon), who is too canny to allow for veneration and too economical to let sentimentality linger for very long.