"Rush"

Chris Hemsworth, left, and Daniel Bruhl star in "Rush." (Jaap Buitendijk / Universal Studios / October 3, 2013)

Ah, the difficulties of being a Formula One film in a NASCAR world. It perhaps explains the slow start here for the full-throttle sports drama "Rush." Polished to a high sheen by director Ron Howard, it stars "Thor's" Chris Hemsworth as British racer James Hunt, a role that allows the flexing of some acting chops as well as muscle for a change.

The 1976 racing season is screenwriter Peter Morgan's focus. Hunt, the playboy, was locked in a showdown with Austrian driver Niki Lauda (an excellent Daniel Bruhl), their rivalry as legendary as their racing. Lauda, a taciturn tactician, was headed for another World Championship title when a fiery crash left him near death.

His recovery was as painful as it was remarkable, his return for the final race against all odds. The exceptional camera work makes you feel as if you're experiencing it with them, the rain pouring down, the track flashing by at impossible speeds, the roar of the engine vibrating through you. It's a rush just watching.