If you count how many realistic films were released which had Formula One or racing sports as main “topic” you will certainly end up with a very very tiny list and you will certainly say: Senna, Driven or perhaps Michel Vaillant. Driven featuring Sylvester Stallone wasn’t interesting from an historical and technical point of view as it was loaded with improbable stunts and it featured a very Hollywoodish way of filming race scenes of CART cars. Very boring…

But fortunately Ron Howard took this year the really nice decision to film the so-called Golden age of Formula One:  the 70’s and to marvelously narrate the real story of Austrian formula one driver Niki Lauda or better said the rivalry between the Austrian racer and the British playboy James Hunt. And here I must say starts the moment when you understand why these gentlemen drivers are called legends, racing with 300km/h in cars in which you wouldn’t dare to drive 100 meters on a straight, so dangerous it was. The miracle during this “golden age” was when all the drivers each Sunday afternoon were still alive. Only the performances of the cars were in the middle point, all safety questions seemed inexistent.

It might sound a morbid, but read the story of Jochen Rindt, who lost his life in Monza because during those days drivers never fasten their seatbelts in order to…be able to quickly escape in case their car took fire during a crash. And what about the tragic story of Ronnie Peterson? These tragic stories of the  Formula One history, sadly illustrate the permanent danger the drivers were facing, an their everyday fight between life, death, speed and fame.

Starting from this background, the 70’s were a very tragic period. Rush depicts how Niki Lauda and James Hunt fought during the 1979 Formula One championship. Niki himself was positively surprised to see how historically accurate the film is. Now ask yourself how you would compose such a track with on the one side formula one cars and a bunch of speed and on the other side the flair of the seventies and a story between two radically racers? Of course there are bunches of musical and film references with powerful soundtracks perfectly synchronized with driving scenes but what about Formula One? Here you have only a fistful references like and of course video games intros like the Microprose’s Grand Prix series here are some YouTube tracks :

or even the Codemasters Series of F1 Games

one in which you are also directly transported into the technico-racing atmosphere. The Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport soundtracks are also very catchy and full of this “racing atmosphere”. If you ever played GP3 and loved the intro music you will understand what I’m talking about. Ok so far for the racing part.. But what about the typical 70’s musical flair? Ever heard something about rock music? David Bowie, someone? Yes, you will also get this in Hans Zimmer’s new opus.

When talking about Hans Zimmer you will automatically think of epic music with a lot of strings and orchestra and a mega choir, giving you the feeling that you are watching a sequel of Gladiator. Film soundtracks have also the problem that they tend to resemble a lot and of course if they are composed by the same musician so that you will definitely stand up and say: Hey! This sample was taken out of Gladiator or even Avatar (yes it was composed by James Horner, but you’ll recognize some inspired passages). And here you understand the difficulty for a composer to find something new that will also match the story’s atmosphere.

This soundtrack has actually three levels or atmospheres: the first one won’t be a deception to film soundtrack lovers: the same theme is well repeated with an orchestra and the entire thing you need to give you some chills. The second one is more focused on very quickly sequenced tracks with a lot of drums and bass to amplify the racing actions and the third level – and this is a surprise – completely breaks the typical Zimmer soundtrack template. You will directly notice the heavy usage of the guitar bass and in some passage s noises (mostly produced by electric guitars) to amplify the very dark and oppressing driving atmosphere (think about a raining fall weather with a half lit Nürburgring track and “William Turner-like” skies and you get the whole scene). And here we come to the novelty of this soundtrack: don’t expect something linear going through the 24 tracks and no you won’t sleep in, because after each 3 or 4 track you will get what I would qualify as a rock’n’ Roll interlude. In fact sloppy guitar riffs, even hard rock passage of the 70s are perfectly matching the stories plot and situations.

Once again Zimmer has created a wonderful soundtrack for a full emotion loaded film. With the subtle combination of orchestra based and rock’n’roll based atmosphere, the film gets even  more epic and receive legend full touch. Of course only listening to the soundtrack without understanding the story Perhaps for pure orchestra the rock n roll parts might sound a little bit weird, because they really cut the atmosphere, but in my opinion you can listen to the “Rush” soundtrack in two ways: the first one is to create a playlist and group all orchestra based tracks and the second way would be to group the rock’n’roll tracks depending in which mood you are. , but come on how would you musically illustrate hunts wild life in the 60s without such a music? And last point for formula one fans: yes there are genuine 1976 Ferrari motor sound samples in some tracks 😉

For those interested about the Niki Lauda – James Hunt story here is an interesting BBC 2 report about Formula One in the 70’s including interesting interviews and never seen before footages. Spoiler warning? Not needed for real Formula One fans 😉

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