By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on October 02, 2013

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Dear Michael Brice Ellis
Title Designer

Dear Michael,

Man, those titles were fast! Not the opening credits (of which there aren't really any), but the inter-titles you designed for Rush as the story skips through time. The font was always italicized (to look fast), with the axis slanted (to look faster), and the information was not neatly packaged in the corner of the screen. The city names, dates and specific races were plastered all over, like an excited flyer from the 1970s selling us on this strange speedy sport. And as my eyes raced around, I felt like a Formula One driver myself. Only my version of chasing titles wasn't nearly so dangerous.

Actually, I could have used your help right from the start. The story opens with a voiceover by Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl), delivered in a staccato, no-nonsense German accent. He tells us that he's best remembered for two things; his rivalry with fellow Formula One driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), and what happened on "one August, 1976, when I was chasing him like an ass-hole". Note how he words the date. Does he mean "August 1st" or "one August day in 1976"? I couldn't tell. Which actually confused the climax for me, even if the event in question is unmistakable by the time the final credits roll.

And I think because I was caught up in the story calendar, it took me that long to really appreciate the film. Though it's based on a true story, Rush is not really about the specific events and dates you give us. It's not even about racing cars. This is a story with two rival protagonists and their symbolic relationship in a de facto death club. Appreciating the risks they were willing to take to win the title of world champion is important, but it's not necessarily the point. Instead, it's more fun to just watch their opposing philosophies crash headfirst in a world with seemingly arbitrary rules and perilous rewards.

Sure, director Ron Howard can't help but revel in the labels of the two men - Hunt being the British playboy and carefree poster child of 70s hedonism, while Lauda is the stereotypically calculating, cold and serious Austrian. But leveraging those traits for tragedy instead of comedy helps the film avoid feeling like a Hollywood cliche. In fact, the down and dirty approach of the visuals is a refreshing departure for the director and helps us focus on the characters.

Ultimately, that's the part of the story that makes the film exciting. Not the shaky race cinematography, not the aggressive sound design, and certainly not your zooming inter-titles.

Spinning out,


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