Rush seems to have shaken something awake in Ron Howard. The story of English racing driver James Hunt, the charismatic rapscallion who won 1976's Formula One World Championship, and Hunt's straight-arrow nemesis Niki Lauda, the movie sometimes feels a bit scrambled-- Howard tries to pack a lot, maybe too much, into 123 surprisingly fleet minutes—but the racing sequences make up for it. Rush is flawed but alive, and its actors never get lost in the blur of speed. If the film is partly about machines-- a flimsy type of race car that Hunt calls "just a little coffin, really"-- it's just as much about men who know precisely what to do in those split seconds when there's no time to blink, let alone think. Chris Hemsworth, of Thor fame, plays Hunt, England's version of California, blond, insouciant, and randy. He loves the ladies almost as much as he loves driving, but the person who really gets under his skin is Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl. They understand each other better than anyone else ever could. At one point, Hunt explains in voiceover, "The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel," a sentiment brought home to Lauda the hard way. In case you don't know the story, I won't divulge the details here, but Howard, working from a script by Peter Morgan, dramatizes the event that changed Lauda's life in a way that's horrifying and direct. The racing sequences, as shot by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and edited by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill, are fleet, exhilarating, stunning in their detail.