I’m a simple guy; you show me a movie with cars in it, chances are I’m going to enjoy it. Likewise for films starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, two of the best actors in the industry. Put both of them together and well, one can get very excited. What’s great about Ford v Ferarri, the latest offering from director James Mangold is you don’t even have to like cars to like the movie. But it sure doesn’t hurt to either.
Ford v Ferarri tells the story of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, two men leading the charge to try and allow Ford Motor Company to win a title at the coveted Le Mans race in France in the 1960s. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Le Mans is a twenty-four-hour endurance race that sees two drivers share one car over the course of a day while trying not to burn it out or push it too far. Ferrari is the champions in this arena, winning four out of the last five races. Ford wants to break away from the suburban vehicle and make something fast, furious and competitive. That’s where Matt Damon’s Shelby comes in.
Shelby is the only American to win at Le Mans but has since gone on to designing his own cars. He gets recruited by Ford to help them build a superior racing car to win at Le Mans and is offered carte blanche to do the task. Of course, Shelby ends up learning Carte Blanche has another meaning in the corporate world and he ends up battling his own side just as much-if not more-than Ferrari. Damon is tired of the red tape and all the nonsense but wants to make a point and thus, has to dance with the devil. Thankfully, Shelby has a sense of humour and isn’t too much of a suit himself. To help him actually race the beast, he’ll need Bale’s Ken Miles, a passionate driver that plays by his own rules, to tame the beast. During all of this, the two men and their team must battle physics and lots and lots of corporate red tape.
So let’s get it out of the way: Christian Bale is great in this movie. He steals every scene he’s in as the cocky, witty Brit Ken Miles who may have too many chips on his shoulder to count. He sasses, he barks back and is fiercely passionate about the car and the drive. He’s the kind of driver who memorizes the track down to the cracks in the road to help guide him on the race. He’s also a mechanic and ends up forming a bond of sorts with a piece of machinery, all the while the suits at Ford are conspiring against him and the project. It’s award-worthy stuff and he should be considered for Best Actor.
Likewise, director James Mangold (Logan) does a top-notch effort driving this movie to the finish line. He toes the line between having fun with the cars and bringing the drama into the forefront. With the help of his cinematographer, Mangold makes the racing scenes exhilarating, creating longer, wider shots to capture the cars. I loved that the racing scenes were very kinetic, with the camera getting up close and personal with the car, hugging the bumpers from low angles. You got the sense of speed, even if it’s just movie magic.
While there is plenty of car stuff in the movie, especially in the latter half, Miles had to contend with his family life quite a bit and is guided by his car-loving wife (Catriona Balfe) while mentoring his son Peter. Meanwhile, Shelby duels it out with the suits at Ford, including Jon Bernthal and Josh Lucas as Leo Beebe, the latter of which wins the “biggest douchebag of the year” award. I found Miles’ son, Peter (Noah Jupe) to be sincere in his passion for racing and cars and simultaneously fearful for his father’s life because of it. However, I got the impression Peter was supposed to be around twelve years old but everyone seemed to treat him younger than he was. Despite the movie putting a lot of attention on Peter, I didn’t connect with him that much as a character and found it difficult to buy his performance.
There are a few scenes I would have likely trimmed or cut out of the movie altogether. The flick clocks in at around two and a half hours and never drags but there are one or two scenes that overall didn’t contribute much to the overall plot of the movie. And honestly, those are my only real gripes with the movie. The racing was amazing and the sound design, hearing the roar of the engines, was superb. The effects were also top-notch, a noticeable step above the last (excellent) racing film, 2013’s Rush. Damon and Bale give excellent performances and you’ll leave the movie wanting to drive a car very fast (but please, don’t).
I am curious as to where this movie is going to be housed when it hits streaming platforms. It’s a Fox film, so will you be able to find it on Disney+ one day? What about all the other Fox films that currently aren’t on the platform. Likewise, will movies like this continue to get made, now that Fox is merged with Disney, or will they focus more on their franchises? Will this mark the end of the dramatic efforts from Fox? Food for thought.
In the end, this is a fun, well-made film that feels more like a classic film, in the sense that it feels like an older type of film, perhaps made for an older audience. It’s a slower, character-focused drama that I personally feel has been lacking in cinema lately. Thankfully, it looks like all of those movies are bookending the year and Ford v Ferrari is one of those movies. For the drama, the thrills and the checkered flag, this one is a winner.
Before driving off, why not check out our latest works, including a review of the Stephen King adaptation Doctor Sleep and if you have seen that movie, a spoiler opinion on a certain scene from that movie. Then you can catch up on what a Mandalorian is in time for the new show.