REVIEW: “ Ford v Ferrari”

FORDBIG

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of auto racing and I can’t really name a movie about racing that I have a lot of affection for. But it’s hard to skip over one with as much star power and early awards season buzz of “Ford v Ferrari”. Christian Bale, Matt Damon, eye-popping visuals, and Oscar predictions aplenty are some of the reasons I had to give it a go.

James Mangold directs this character-driven sports drama spawned from the rivalry between Ford Motor Company and Ferrari that ran through much of the 1960s. Their fierce competition reached its apex at the 1966 24-Hour Le Mans, an endurance race which Ferrari had won for six years straight. The Italian company’s dominance didn’t sit well with Ford who hires Texas race car designer Carroll Shelby (played by a spot-on Matt Damon) to build a blazing fast ride to dethrone their counterpart.

Ford1

That’s the gist of the story which comes from the writing team of Jez Butterworth, his brother John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller. Actually you could call it the framework the trio uses to explore the big personalities behind this remarkable feat. There is plenty of auto jabber and really cool race sequences. But ultimately it’s the human element that makes this movie work.

The bulk of that humanity comes through Ken Miles (Christian Bale). A professional race car driver, earnest family man, and a bit of a wild card, Ken struggles to put food on his family’s table and keep his garage out of the hands of the IRS. Predictably Bale gives a fabulous performance whether he’s under the hood, behind the wheel, or sharing quieter moments with his wife (a really good Caitriona Balfe) and adoring young son (Noah Jupe). The awards hype is justified.

Yet another good performance comes from Tracy Letts playing the surly Henry Ford II He’s the CEO of Ford who is anxious to get out of his father’s shadow and make a name for himself. That, along with some insulting jabs from the Ferrari owner Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), leads him to follow the suggestion of his VP Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and enter the international racing scene.

Ford hires Shelby who instantly wants Miles to be his driver. They set out to build their car but quickly discover their biggest obstacle isn’t faulty brakes or design flaws. It’s the Ford executives who are better versed in keeping up the company image than RPMs. This sets up the film’s biggest tension as two racing mavericks go up against the controlling corporate suits best embodied in the movie’s portrayal of Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas).

FORD2

In terms of characters and characterization, this is the film’s one glaring misfire. It was interesting to read that the real Leo Beebe wasn’t the smarmy, opportunistic weasel we get here. I get dramatic license and all that. You never come to movies like this for pure, unwavering authenticity. But the the story’s portrayal doesn’t especially help the film. He feels like a stock movie character pulled right off the shelf. Nothing wrong with Lucas’ performance, but it’s a case where the nuances of the real Leo Beebe might have played better.

My only other quibble is with the film’s 150 minute running time. This may sound contradictory, but the movie never drags. Yet there were a couple of times when I became completely aware of its length. Despite that “Ford v Ferrari” is still a rousing racing drama that doesn’t shirk on the human element. Bale and Damon have a snappy chemistry, and the supporting cast is fantastic (I haven’t even mentioned the superb and always underappreciated Ray McKinnon). And of course, there are the exhilarating racing sequences. Best of all, no racing knowledge required. Just a love for stories rich with humanity and spirit.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

25 thoughts on “REVIEW: “ Ford v Ferrari”

  1. I’m not much of a racing fan at all . Although I do like classic cars and if I had the money would own a Ferrari ( like Magnum had in the 80’s ) lol . But racing was never my thing . I’ll probably let this come to a streaming service . It does have a excellent cast and I have read they have taken some liberties too with certain things. As always a thoughtful review .

    • You sound just like me. I do like classic cars even some modern sports cars. But as far as racing goes, it never has been something I could latch onto. This is definitely worth your time. Kinda surprised me how much I enjoyed these characters.

  2. Sod the humanity, gimme the races! 😊 Seriously I am a big respecter of Christian Bale, thought he was outstanding in Hostiles, and Matt Damon doesn’t often put a foot wrong. Catrionia Belfry ( hmm sorry that may well be double spelling mistake) I only know from the TV series Outlander but she seems more than competent in that. In all this is going to be a must see for me. *ahem* petrol head *ahem* 😁

    • HaHa. Ever the gear-head, are you? Well you’ll get that here. The race scenes are great mainly because they feel authentic. Really well shot and not stuck on being big and bombastic.

  3. Looking forward to watching the racing sequences and that chemistry between Bale and Damon. I liked Outlanders so will keep my eyes peeled on Catrionia’s performance here. Nice review, Keith.

    • Thanks Cindy. Damon and Bale are excellent together. So natural and authentic. I can see both getting nominations. And the supporting cast features so many other goodies.

  4. Good review!

    Spoilers ahead!

    At the beginning, KEN threw his trophies to the garbage can. PETER took them and put them under his bed. Did I miss something, or was that never brought up again? I thought it was meant to pay off later.

    • You’re right. It was never mentioned again. I assumed it was meant to show the son’s love for his father’s accomplishments and faith that his father would race again. But you’re right, it’s a strange thing to show with no later payoff.

  5. I just saw the movie this weekend and I really enjoyed it. (my own review should be up tonight) And since I’m not a racing fan myself, it was a nice “history lesson from Hollywood” that peaked my interest to read some more about the real events after getting home from the theatre 😉 The acting was great and I look forward to seeing any nominations coming their way soon enough. Thanks Keith!

    Follow me @redbeardmoviereviews on Facebook or online at redbeardreviews.movie.blog

    • It’s a good one and I responded to it along stronger than I expected. And I would be shocked if it didn’t get some meaningful Awards nominations in the coming months.

  6. I saw it last week and loved it, favorite movie of the year. Great acting, screenplay, the race scenes were exciting, I like the way they decided to tell the story, all around favorable for me. I knew the length going in and wondered if it might start to feel a little long, but that was never an issue as I was watching it. Also, as a few others said, I’m not really a car or a racing guy, but I don’t think you need to be, it’s just a good story.

    (completely off topic and off the wall and relevant to nothing, but I wasn’t here back then to correct you at the time (that is what the internet is for, isn’t it?) – I was browsing through the Keith archives a few days ago and saw the best actor list, and shockingly, no Alec Guinness on there. How can that be? You need to squeeze him on there somewhere.)

  7. I do want to see this just out of interest for the subject matter though I’m not a fan of Josh Lucas as a person while he has his moments as an actor. It’s just a shame he’s always going to be a poor man’s Matthew McConaughey. They could’ve just had Matt Damon in makeup to play that role and do the McConaughey voice and take his shirt off like McConaughey.

  8. Disappointed to read in yet another review the bad guy characterization is not good. Still, it’s Mangold’s so in spite of Matt Damon’s presence – can’t stand him – I’ll see it

    • Yep, it almost feels like Lucas is working in an entirely movie than everyone else. He really sticks out like a sore thumb. But aside from that, Mangold makes this into a really interesting story.

  9. I was definitely feeling the length of this movie. I’m not a huge fan of racing either, but I Liked it for the performances. Lucas as Beebe was far too over the top though.

    • Lucas really stood out, didn’t he? I said elsewhere he felt like he was working in a different movie. Wasn’t necessarily his fault. It’s how the character is written. Still, “over the top” is a good description.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s