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Ford v Ferrari Movie Review
If you like cars, you will love Ford v Ferrari. If you like Bromances, you will love Ford v Ferrari. It is actually refreshing to see a Guy’s movie that isn’t a superhero film or relentlessly violent. This film barely earns its PG13.
The film is based on, or inspired by the true story of the 1966 24 hour Le Mans Race, when the Ford GT40 engine cars took all top three places.
The Ford Motor Company hires Carrol Shelby (Matt Damon) who works closely with race car driver British Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to create the GT40 race car to compete with rival Italian carmaker Ferrari. Shelby and Miles form a volatile deep friendship as they struggle with Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and his corporate cronies: various actors in suits and perfectly combed hair that are all jockeying for Ford’s favor and trying to steal credit for other people’s accomplishments. Everyone wants to take credit if the car is a success and quickly blame Miles and Shelby if the project is a failure.
For a film about fast cars, it starts off slow but the story evolves steadily and becomes more interesting as it moves forward, and builds to high stakes at the Le Mans race in France in June 1966. Director James Mangold has surrounded himself with a great artistic team, the editing, the cinematography and the production design are all top notch. This film puts you squarely in the race world of 1966 authentically without feeling like a committee from 2019 did it. I love those cool 1960’s interiors, wood and clean lines. Even the race sequences feel a bit modest – as if the crew is purposely not taking advantage of CGI and modern technology. But they manage to be thrilling at the same time.
I have never been a huge Christian Bale fan. It isn’t that I disliked him, or thought he wasn’t a good actor: it’s just that he was never much on my film fandom radar. Perhaps that is Bale’s intention, to blend in and be. His Ken Miles is understated and almost regal in his presence. This cool magnetism reminds me of the best of Gary Cooper. He exudes integrity and authority. He elevates Matt Damon who yes, is a good actor, but somehow is better here as he plays off of Bale. Many of the supporting male character actors blend into each other, which I think is the intention of the filmmakers, giving corporate America, even in the 1960’s a feeling of amassed conformity. The only significant female role is that of Miles’ wife Mollie played expertly by Caitriona Balfe, who does a tremendous amount with the supportive beautiful wife role. Young Noah Jupe is also excellent as Ken’s young son, Peter, who worships his father.
Admittedly the film is overlong. I wish it were about fifteen to twenty minutes shorter. It is ironic that a film about the fastest cars in the world would be too long. Although the story is incredibly interesting, well told, and very well acted, this particular story, that doesn’t exactly rely on heavy emotional involvement to maintain interest, doesn’t warrant the playing time and definitely needs to get to the climatic race a bit sooner. Ultimately your enjoyment may depend on how much you like cars, bromances and good story telling-I think it is totally worth it because , after all it isn’t a superhero movie, a franchise, or a film that feels like a genre product dumped onto us by a huge corporate conglomerate.
Treat yourself to a well-made film, like films used to be made and should be made.