Film Review – Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari
I am claiming ignorance to the majority of the characters and the true story told in Ford v Ferrari. I will admit that after viewing the trailers and seeing the film, my impression of the story from the trailers was utterly wrong. I am not a car enthusiast or a racing fan, so my ignorance of the story is valid, plus I wasn’t born yet. Stating all of that, Ford v Ferrari entertains and keeps you on the edge of your seat, if you don’t know the history. If you do know the history, I believe that director James Mangold has crafted a film that will still instill in you a renewed excitement in Ford’s entry into racing.
Ford v Ferrari tells the story of Ford Motor Company’s entry into professional racing in the 1960s. Ferrari owner Scuderia Ferrari (Bogdan Szumilas) embarrasses Ford’s Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) publicly when Ford tries to buy the bankrupt Ferrari. Using this public embarrassment as fuel, Henry Ford II wants to beat Ferrari at the annual 24 Hours of Les Mans race. The one problem is that Ford has no car that can beat a Ferrari. Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who used to race cars and now builds his own. Shelby entered into a contract with Ford to head up their new racing division and beat Ferrari. With this new business agreement, it is only natural that Carroll would want to have his best driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale), along for the ride. Unfortunately, Ken does not get along with Ford executive Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas). Throw into the mix Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), who ends up being a go-between for Beebe and Shelby, who always has Miles’s back. The film is about all of this and including Le Mans in 1966.
The success of this film is dependent on the relationship between Miles and Shelby, and Christian Bale and Matt Damon killed it. The absolute best part of Ford v Ferrari is the interplay between these two actors and both of them completely enveloping their characters. Both actors have many great lines, and the majority of them are when they are in the same scene. Damon has a charming Texan accent as Carroll Shelby and has to play the company man to Ford as well as try to be sympathetic to his crew. Christian Bale uses an English accent and noticeably slimmed down to play this role. Bale transmits Miles’ cockiness well, although for Miles it is more that he knows more about racing his cars than anyone else. This behavior is what gets him in trouble with Leo Beebe. Oddly enough, several times during the film, Bale’s acting and the way he carried himself reminded me of him in one of his earliest roles, Jim in Empire of the Sun.
The crowning achievement of Ford v Ferrari is its portrayal of the Les Mans race in 1966. It felt like the devotion to this race took up half the film but in a good way. This race is the climax of the film, but because it is a 24-hour race, it could not just be a 15-minute sequence. It is long, but not ever dull. There are plenty of heart-stopping moments and ones that want to make you stand up and cheer.
Ken’s wife Molly Miles (Caitriona Balfe) and son Peter (Noah Jupe) are used in the film to ground his character. While both Caitriona and Noah are accomplished actors, they are not used to their full potential. The segues to family life seemed not crucial to the story being told in this film, other than Ken realizing racing was not going to support his family, and neither would his garage that the IRS repossessed. Molly is indeed a strong woman and supportive of her husband; anyone in her position would know the risks of such a career. Of course, his son Peter looks up to him and also knows some of the dangers of what his father does as a living. It all becomes more apparent when he sees his father crash badly.
Ford v Ferrari is the most exciting film in theaters right now, and it is one that even this car and racing-ignorant film reviewer can positively say do not miss it. Every single scene that Christian Bale and Matt Damon are in is a delight. Surprisingly, these two actors have not been in a film together before because they have fantastic chemistry and play well off each other. Director James Mangold along with screenwriters Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and James Keller crafted a real delight with many great scenes. Not every “based on a true story” film manages to be worth your time, but Ford v Ferrari certainly is.