Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rush by Hans Zimmer (2013)

Review by Travis Elder

Ron Howard's Rush tells the story of the rivalry between English playboy and rebel James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the austere Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) as they vied for the 1976 Formula One world championship.  The film takes the pole position with its uproariously loud and breakneck race sequences that dazzle with their intensity and amaze with their camera work.  To fuel these high-octane, white-knuckle race sequences Howard returned to veteran composer Hans Zimmer, who previously collaborated with him on 1991's Backdraft as well as Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon, and Angels & Demons.

Zimmer brings together several expected elements such as loud, pounding, even ferocious rock band percussion, lots of bass, and electric guitar.  Zimmer also throws in a couple of surprises including the organ and the cello.  Finally, just like Backdraft with its fireman, breathing mask sound effects (Burn it All), Zimmer inserts some race car sounds into the mix (start of 1976, conclusion of Watkins Glen, the end of My Best Enemy, and a subtle crowd effect in Budgie).

The theme for Rush first appears in 1976 from 1:20 to 2:21, played by a slow-tempo cello with rich timbre.  The theme truly shines with its extended performance in Lost But Won as it starts slowly and gradually escalates in inspiring intensity.  Those familiar with the Game of Thrones and Ramin Djawadi's score will wonder at 1:06 if the graceful cello portends the Lannisters' appearance to serenade the racers with strains of The Rains of Castamere (listen below).  Not only does Rush's main theme share notes with Ramin Djawadi's, but the use of the cello, also used with elegant effect by Djawadi, really calls attention to the similarity of the two themes.  Frankly, the theme and the richness of the cello works very well throughout the score bringing some heart and soul contrast to the pulse pounding rhythms, electric guitar riffs, and thumping percussion.

The pair of cues, Stopwatch and Into the Red form another highlight of the score.  What I like about these cues and the other racing cues is Zimmer skillfully uses tempo and rhythm to mimic the actual race.  As Stopwatch begins you can feel the race accelerating with the tick tocking strings and percussion.  A quarter of the way in Into the Red some Inception-like guitar rhythms make an appearance followed by an organ interlude.  Other Inception moments occur in Car Trouble and with the Mombasa-sounding percussion near the end of the more dissonant and troubled Nürburgring.  Months ago after hearing the Formula 1 bonus track (see extras below) I was worried that Inception was going to take over the score, but that is not the case and the style works where it is inserted.  Sadly, Stopwatch and Into the Red fall prey to some inartful cue chopping with Stopwatch ending like a jarring t-bone as a stand alone listen.  Together though they ratchet up the adrenaline with rock and roll style.

Another cue not to be missed is Reign, which explodes out of the gate with furious percussion colliding in tandem with strings.  The main theme plays a quarter of the way along with some of the most vigorous percussion of the score.  Had James Hunt played Reign in his car back in 1976 he might not have lost a single race the entire season!  The score concludes with a choral epitaph in My Best Enemy.

Overall, Rush excels at portraying the life and death nature of the races with its intensity and brings heart to the score with noble-sounding cello.  Disgruntled men of steel should really check out Zimmer's Rush, for the racing genre is a place where Zimmer and his style are right at home.  The score is available on disc and digitally from WaterTower Music.  Amazon CD | Amazon MP3 | iTunes

Track Listing:
1. 1976  (2:59)
2. I Could Show You If You’d Like  (0:44)
3. I Hear You Knocking – Dave Edmunds  (2:47)
4. Stopwatch*  (1:29)
5. Into The Red*  (3:15)
6. Budgie  (1:28)
7. Scuderia  (0:53)
8. Gimme Some Lovin – Steve Winwood  (2:52)
9. Oysters in the Pits  (1:05)
10. 20%  (1:01)
11. Dyna-Mite – Mud  (2:56)
12. Watkins Glen  (1:49)
13. Loose Cannon  (0:36)
14. The Rocker – Thin Lizzy  (5:09)
15. Car Trouble  (2:39)
16. Gluck  (1:14)
17. Nürburgring  (5:34)
18. Inferno  (3:30)
19. Mount Fuji  (3:45)
20. For Love  (2:48)
21. Reign*  (3:07)
22. Fame – David Bowie  (4:11)
23. Lost but Won*  (6:19)
24. My Best Enemy  (2:31)

Total running time of score: 46:46
*ScoreCues 2013 Best Cues Nominee

Download free bonus track: Formula 1 (via the movie's website)

Interviews with Hans Zimmer at Rush Premier:

Listen to Ramin Djawadi's theme for the Lannisters from The Game of Thrones:

Ron Howard - How did canaries influence the score for RUSH?
Hans Zimmer - It was actually budgies. Since budgies can't survive on their own, they have to be a couple, I used that as the metaphor for my James Hunt theme.

Related scores:
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (on Spotify)

Spotify playlist:

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