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‘Ford v Ferrari’ (review by Elizabeth Robbins)

Produced by Peter Chernin,
Jenno Topping, James Mangold
Written by Jez Butterworth,
John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Matt Damon, Christian Bale,
Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal,
Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe,
Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon

 

Ford v Ferrari had everything I expected from this movie. Beautiful cars, heart-in-your-throat racing scenes, and dynamic performances from two A-List actors.

What I didn’t expect was that it delivered I heartfelt story that was never crossed the line into saccharin or schmaltz.

However, the story did not lead me down the road I expected.

I was ready for a side by side comparison of the Ford company and Ferrai’s development of their top machines for the 1966 Le Mans. What actually unfolded was the story of Ken Miles, a name hardly know outside (or honestly inside) the racing world, and his collaboration with Carroll Shelby that shaped the design of the Ford GTO40.

The two men and their team take on the unheard of challenge of designing an American factory made racing car that could take on the old world, hand-built automotive royalty that is Ferrari. If that is not challenge enough, Shelby has to reign in Miles’s maverick nature in order to negotiate the corporate politics and red tape that could kill their sponsorship from the Ford Company. All their blood sweat and tears leads them Le Mans, the treacherous 24 hour race and showdown with the great Enzo Ferrari and his historically unbeatable team of drivers and perfect driving machines.

Matt Damon plays Shelby with an easy charm, and is the perfect foil to Christian Bale’s mercurial Ken Miles. The two have that kind of friendship that you often see in war movies. Most of the time they seem to want to kill each other, but in the end they will have each others backs.

Ford v Ferrari has a fantastic supporting cast. Most notable, Tracy Letts as Henry Ford Jr., who is the perfect corporate Big-Wig that you love to see taken down a notch or two. Caitrona Balfe is unrecognizable as Miles’s wife, Molly, defining that behind every great man is a no nonsense woman with a foot up his behind. I often have trouble watching kid actors, finding them too over the top or unwatchable, but Noah Jupe who plays Miles’ son, Peter, has a sweetness that seems authentic. Peter and Molly are essential in grounding Miles, keeping him a likable person.

Director James Mangold has not pigeon holed himself into any specific genre. He’s successfully done everything from westerns to superhero movies to biopic, and it shows. He has delicately balanced fast paced action movie, buddy movie, and under dog taking on big business and rolled it all up into an engrossing story that makes over 2 hours pass in the blink of an eye.

The filmmakers brought to the screen all of the danger and excitement of race car driving without relying on digital effects break the laws of physics a la Fast/Furious style. I am not knocking Fast/Furious. I love those movies for what they are, but it is wonderful to watch a film about racing that a that lets the natural excitement of the sport carry you without having to turn the effects up to 11.

You don’t have to be a racing fanatic to get the subtleties of what makes a great driver or car. Ford v Ferrari gives you lens to see into their world and get it.

 

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