Ford v Ferrari feels like an old fashioned film that just doesn’t get made anymore. Here is a big studio film that isn’t a franchise film, isn’t based on pre-existing material, or have any kind of superhero in it. And not that there’s anything wrong with being one (or all) of those things, I’m simply noting that films based on true stories like this don’t receive a 100 million dollar budget very often. This should be a film that people are rushing out to see because it is a big crowd-pleasing, high energy film that I know many people will just eat up. In the theatre I saw this movie in you could feel the energy in the room and the anticipation from the audience as the thrilling car races soared through the theatre. Ford v Ferrari is a movie you will not want to miss in theatres as it was one of my favourite theatre experiences all year.
In the mid-sixties, Carol Shelby, played by Matt Damon, was contracted by Ford Motor Company to build a car fast enough and strong enough to outrace Ferrari in the 1966 24hr Le Mans auto race. Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale, would become the driver tasked with the job of racing the car in Le Mans. The movie follows these two men’s journey to Le Mans and the corporate meddling and hurdles they had to overcome. This is a classic underdog story in every sense of the word. Not only do our two heroes have to overcome the odds of actually beating Ferrari in a sport they’ve dominated for the past 6 years, but overcome the challenges of working for a company that only cares about Ford’s name brand, not about the sport of racing. The drive and passion these men and their team have for racing and cars are so interesting. Shelby and Miles discovered very early on for themselves a passion for racing and a love for cars that now work for them never feels like work. It’s a labor of love. The dialogue written for the characters performed by two excellent performances was incredibly engaging and made me genuinely interested in what they were working on. Which is saying a lot coming from someone who could care less about racing or cars.
James Mangold, hot off of Logan, directs this film with vigorous energy and pace. The scenes in which Shelby and Miles are just talking, discussing about what to fix next or Shelby’s boardroom meetings with the heads of Ford are so fascinating. The energy expelled by the great direction and amazing performances all around never once lost my interest. As for the racing scenes, some of the most intense scenes I’ve ever sat through in a theatre. I checked my pulse a few times throughout this movie because I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest. The races are handled with expertise. The action was clear, never once did I lose track of what was going on in those scenes. I could only imagine how difficult that must have been to shoot and make it feel like a natural flow. I was holding my breath at every turn and gear shift.
Christian Bale is one of the few big-time actors who is so recognizable that can still completely disappear in a role. He has played so many larger than life and iconic roles, but he has a great way of bringing those characters down to a grounded level. Here, Ken Miles is a hothead that loses his cool quite often, and Bale has some great scenes in which he acts out and throws a wrench at someone, but I loved his moments with his son or his wife where he would be a warm loving father or husband. Bale plays a loving family man and I don’t think we’ve seen that kind of role from Bale before. These scenes were so sweet and endearing.
If I had to pick on something in this film I found that the passage of time was a little unclear. Full months would pass and it was hard to tell what time of year they were in or how close they were to their deadline. I also found the score at the beginning of the movie to be a little out of tone for the film. As the movie progresses and the initial setup for the story is over, the score changes which then suits the film much better.
Ford v Ferrari should be a film you rush out to see even if you are not a car or racing fan. This is a true underdog story and a type of studio film that doesn’t really exist anymore. The race scenes are intense and had my heart pounding in anticipation. The relationship between Carol Shelby and Ken Miles over their love and passion for cars and racing is infections. Christian Bale and Matt Damon put in two stellar and endearing performances and is a true ensemble piece. You will be frustrated with the corporate greed these two have to deal with, but you will cheer on the inside when they find clever ways to work around it. This movie will connect with people who dream of doing something they love and accomplishing the impossible.