Don't know the difference between Formula One and Formula Three racing?
Never heard of Niki Lauda? A man, by the way.
Already lived through the 1970s or, conversely, think of that decade as ancient history?
It won't matter a bit while watching "Rush," a movie so solidly entertaining that it can make someone who is clueless about racing care about the rivalry between Mr. Lauda, a disciplined, by-the-book Austrian, and the charming English playboy James Hunt.
3.5 stars = Very Good
Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl.
R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.
The credit goes to, for starters, actors Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth as the respective leads, director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan (Oscar nominated for "The Queen" and Mr. Howard's "Frost/Nixon").
In this world, men faced a 20 percent chance of dying every time they got into a car. One autograph seeker -- part crepe hanger, part savvy collector -- asks a driver for his signature and then to add the date to it. "You never know when it could be your last."
The story introduces the men in 1970 and follows them to the fateful 1976 season and chase for the F1 title.
Hunt is a sexy, blond-haired partier who proves virtually irresistible to women and who seems impervious to pressure, until he vomits before a race or nervously flicks his lighter open and closed and open and closed. The disciplined, humorless Lauda, meanwhile, sees happiness as the enemy because "it weakens you" and gives you something to lose.
Both men have something -- their lives, their loves (portrayed by Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara), their cars, their ambition -- to lose, making "Rush" about more than just a chase to the finish line and world championship.
Their fates are intertwined, as crushing competitors, as decision-makers about proceeding with a race under perilous conditions, as inspiration and as unlikely defender.
The best way to see "Rush" may be with a blank slate; know nothing about this world and it will all be new, including the devastating accident that traps a driver in an 800-plus-degree inferno for a minute and sears his face and lungs.
Tiny cameras were hidden by the engine blocks or positioned in the cars or helmets to help put moviegoers into the action, and you can almost feel the vibration. There is a routine quality to some of the story as dates are thrown up on screen as the pair march through grand prix races.
Not so routine: the way drivers feel alive in the face of death, how courage comes in climbing from a hospital bed back into the driver's seat or in knowing when to pull off the track and in believing "a wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends."