No offense to Ron Howard, who is clearly very good at his job as two Academy Award wins and billions of dollars at the box office will attest to, but he’s almost the cinematic definition of workmanlike. The former Happy Days star can always be relied on as a safe pair of hands to deliver a film on schedule and on budget, with the majority of his output being functional and competent rather than jaw-dropping or spectacular.
Of course, you can’t argue with a back catalogue that boasts acclaimed dramas Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon, and box office hits including Ransom, The Da Vinci Code, Backdraft and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, not to mention cult favorites Splash, Cocoon, Willow and Solo: A Star Wars Story, but visual panache has never been one of his defining traits.
However, that’s exactly what made 2013’s Rush such a pleasant surprise, and it was comfortably Howard’s best movie in a long time. Anchored by two fantastic central turns from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl as legendary Formula 1 rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the biographical drama was a deft combination of rip-roaring racing sequences that doubled as a fascinating character study diving deep into what made charismatic playboy Hunt and the meticulously dedicated Lauda such fierce adversaries, and ultimately friends.
Rush landed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Bruhl scored a nod for Best Supporting Actor, although Chris Hemsworth‘s contributions can’t be overlooked, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor giving arguably the single best performance of his entire career. It might not have been a major commercial success after failing to even cross the $100 million mark globally, but it’s poised to find an entirely new audience when it comes to Netflix this week on April 16th.