FORD V FERRARI is a thrilling crowd-pleaser that works whether you know the outcome of the story or whether it’s all new to you; I was the latter. Although the movie does feel a bit formulaic, its thrilling race scenes and incredible performances from a cast at the top of their game make it an exciting entry into the winter award season.
After a failed attempt to buy Ferrari in the mid 1960s, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) decides its time for the Ford Motor Company to enter the fray and beat Ferrari at its own game, car racing. And there’s no better way to really stick it to Ferrari than to win Le Mans, a 24 hour car race that is considered one of the most prestigious races in the world. But to win, Ford needs a good car and skilled driver so they call on Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to create a winning design. Shelby had won Le Mans several years earlier, but now is in the business of making race cars due to a heart condition. Now all that’s needed is a driver, and after some serious convincing, in steps hot-tempered Ken Miles (Christian Bale).
At that time, car races were even more dangerous than they are today due to problems with brakes overheating and failing. So even during the testing process, it very quickly became a matter of life and death. But that didn’t stop Miles, who despite serious reservations from the powers that be at Ford, became the face of Ford’s inaugural journey into the world of racing.
According to my (coughWikipediacough) research, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were originally attached to the film, but I can’t imagine anyone other than Matt Damon and Christian Bale in the roles. Because Shelby and Miles are such titans in the racing industry, it’s no surprise that director Joe Mangold hired Damon and Bale to fill such legendary shoes. Both men had great camaraderie and chemistry, which is the heart—or engine—of the film and were completely believable in their roles. Not only that, it felt like the actors were really having fun.
The gorgeous cinematography during the race scenes really make FORD V FERRARI a film you want to see on the big screen. This is a film where you won’t be able to figure out how some of the scenes were shot. After all, it’s hard enough to film racing scenes that take place in the present day, but Mangold made a period racing film that roars like the Ford GT40. Speaking of roaring, the booming sound design is a character in the movie itself and really helps you feel the strength and power of these cars. And along with the first-person shots inside the cockpit (yes, I looked it up and it is called the cockpit), it feels like you are in the race car yourself.
Besides the story being formulaic, my only other complaint is that I wish one of my favorite actresses, Caitriona Balfe, was given more to do in playing Ken Miles wife, Mollie. I know that the film was mostly about Kirby and Miles, but it seemed Mollie was more of an afterthought in the script and was just written as a source of encouragement for her husband. Balfe did make the most out of what was written on the page, and some of the funniest moments in the film were her reactions to Kirby and Miles frenemy relationship.
Without giving too much away, the third act demonstrates the costs and sacrifices that come with innovation and may make you appreciate even more everything that goes into professional racing. FORD V FERRARI isn’t going to change the game in the subgenre of racing movies, but represents an entertaining enough, family-friendly blockbuster that is sure to be a hit. Just don’t blame me when you try to drag race on your way home.
My Review: B+