Ford v Ferrari is an exhilarating film that shows the unique history of one of the great sportscars my dad lusts over. Helmed by director James Mangold (Logan), this biographical sports drama depicts the events leading up to and through the fabled 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans: an automobile race which saw the first victory of the Ford GT40 and the first victory of an American car constructor.
The film follows Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a real-life racecar driver, automobile designer, and entrepreneur who saw the build and preparation of Ford’s GTs to rival Ferrari’s reputation in automotive sport supremacy. Christian Bale plays Ken Miles, a brash American-based British mechanic and racecar driver who must overcome his internal challenges in search for automotive glory. Ford v Ferrari largely deals with the relationship between these two men as they navigate through the bureaucratic inadequacies and personal impositions of Ford’s executive team with the aspirations of racing the best possible car with the best possible driver.
Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe play Mollie and Peter Miles, Ken’s wife and son respectively. Noah Jupe plays the part of adoring and concerned son well enough to elicit an emotional response during his and Christian Bale’s father-son exchanges. Caitriona Balfe does a superb job at portraying the wife of Ken Miles, however the character seemed a bit lopsided while shifting attitudes about Ken’s decisions. It does not retract from the movie, but there is a point where I sat there consciously rationalizing her actions to myself. Her presence is needed as a way to round out the male-centered cast and possibly be a thought-provoking voice of reason. A noticeably thin Christian Bale reminds the viewer of his acting prowess. His use of voice and gestures greatly add to his strong screen presence. Matt Damon is good too, but apart from his Southern accent, it seems like a role we are used to seeing him in.
Ford v Ferrari does what the first few Fast and the Furious movies do well – from its brilliant exposition of beautiful cars, to its ability to generate genuine adrenaline-filled excitement – the film covers what you expect it would. The movie’s race scenes are particularly thrilling, even during the scenes of long endurance races. The maneuvering of these spacecraft-like automobiles zipping past one another and whipping around turns is nothing short of wonderment. The combination of ferocious engine roars with scenes of asphalt speeding past at over 200 miles per hour is a thrill to experience in theater. The overall execution of the driving scenes are done well; making for some of the most enjoyable moments of the 2 hour and 32 minute feature.
The story itself is fairly predictable -even without prior knowledge of the events of the film- but that does not take away from the experience. Just because one thinks they know the ending, does not make the story any less good when their suspicions happen to be correct (especially when in biographical films, things people suspect generally happen).
The writers of the movie; Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, create a script which Mangold capably reimagines to keep the audience members along for the ride. There are different times in the film where Mangold seems to be playing a game of chicken with the viewers in order to retrieve any lost intrigue. For a biographical sports drama about auto racing in the sixties, the film does a good job at keeping eyes on the screen.
All in all, Ford v Ferrari is filled with high-octane racing action, a sneaky Steve McQueen reference (he was in the 1971 film, Le Mans), automotive sport history, an intriguing relationship between Ford and Ferrari, and provides a lesson in going with your gut. The movie interestingly shows the high intensity required of top-level race-car drivers, proving to appeal to both long-time racing fans and hopeful movie-goers.
Ford V Ferrari races into theatres on November 15, 2019