Every once in a while, a movie comes along that reminds us all what the point of going to the cinema is at all — to see a story being told that is worth telling.
“Ford v. Ferrari” is precisely that type of movie.
Director James Mangold and masterclass actors Christian Bale and Matt Damon come together to tell the real life story of the feud that erupted between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari, culminating in the creation of the Ford GT by Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale) that went on to defeat Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Shelby, now most notable for the creation of the famed Shelby Cobra, was the only American driver to have won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1959 in his Aston Martin. He was quickly recruited by Ford to create a car that would go on to “bury Ferrari at Le Mans.”
As portrayed by Damon, Shelby was an outside thinker who needed to work with similarly unique minds, minds that made the suits at the Ford Company nervous.
Shelby recruited Miles to help him construct the Ford GT and to drive it at Le Mans. However, due to Miles’ lack of people skills, Shelby was nearly forced to bar him from driving at all.
Risky gambles were taken and friendships were tested, but in the end, the man who should have been behind the wheel was able to drive at the 24 hours of Le Mans, setting the record for driving the “perfect lap,” of the time and beating every team that Ferrari had entered into the race.
“Ford v. Ferrari” is a breath of fresh air at the movies. Mangold’s film is reminiscent of the days when you’d go to the theater expecting to see an interesting story told in a way that made you laugh, cry and pray a little too.
Bale and Damon are fantastic in their roles as Miles and Shelby. The chemistry between the two is so magnificent that it sometimes seems like they were unaware of the crew filming them — it often feels like they were behaving normally, and the film crew was just along for the ride.
Their friendship is filled with blunt, ‘merican honesty, friendly brawls and wordless conversations that speak volumes.
Their chemistry on screen shows fans a type of friendship that is perfect through its imperfections. The events of the film are seen through the lens of this friendship, creating a pure and compelling hook for audiences.
The events of this film are framed by Miles’ relationship with his wife and son, which is portrayed as the perfect example of the American dream for viewers, building a strain of affirming and meaningful social commentary, especially for all who share Miles’ and his family’s dream.
Additionally, Joe Bernthal breaks out the villainous roles that he is all-too-often typecast in and delivers an engaging and fresh performance as the Ford marketing man, Lee Iacocca.
The camera direction on display in “Ford v. Ferrari” is exceptionally fluid and enthralling.
Though cinematographer Phedon Papamichael does not set out to remake the wheel (pun intended) or show audiences anything necessarily new with this film’s cinematography, Papamichael and Mangold do strive to put the audience right in the thick of the action, with the film’s racing sequences shifting, shuddering and vibrating right through their audience.
One would be amiss if they failed to mention the exceptionally beautiful set pieces that this film features. It is not easy to get your hands on a Ford 1966 GT, a Ford Mk II, a Ferrari 365 P2 Spyder or any of the other ornate and exceedingly rare racing masterpieces shown in abundance in this film.
Charming characters and intriguing plot aside, any racing enthusiasts or car-lovers ought to buy a ticket to see the beautifully filmed, mint-condition relics of racing on display.
Though “Ford v. Ferrari” does little that is new, it does all that it sets out to do with skill, meaningful perspective, powerful storytelling, committed performances and no lack of ‘merican grit and determination at the core of it all.
Aside from a couple of unearned emotional moments where the film tells you how to feel instead of causing those feelings to rise organically, this movie is solid through and through.
For those of you who have been inundated in meta-films that constantly try to earn their stripes by questioning the very medium that they themselves use, those of you who are tired of CGI special effects blockbusters and those of you who just want to pay your damn $9, get a bucket of popcorn and a Coke and sit down in a theater and simply enjoy a good story being told well, “Ford v. Ferrari” might be the perfect film for you.