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Ford v. Ferrari (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Ford v. Ferrari

FORD v. FERRARI (2019)

Starring Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, Gian Franco Tordi, Jack McMullen, Benjamin Rigby, Joe Williamson, Alex Gurney, Corrado Invernizzi, Wallace Langham, Wyatt Nash, Adam Mayfield, Jenelle McKee, Roberta Sparta, Fatimah Hassan, Jonathan LaPaglia and Ian Harding.

Screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller.

Directed by James Mangold.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 152 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Ford v. Ferrari is like the epitome of a guy film. It’s got it all – vintage sports cars, speed, male bonding, cursing, invention, racing, street fights, loyalty, pretty women who are turned on by muscle cars, horse play, overcoming corporate greed, teaching sons to love the things you love, petty theft, throwing wrenches. And America beats the smug European.

Which is not to say that women will not like Ford v. Ferrari as well. But if you have a car guy in your life, rush him out to see it.

Ford v. Ferrari is also one of those most elusive of beasts – a period piece that totally nails the era that it is portraying. Not for one second do you believe that you are not watching life in the mid-1960s. Every outfit, every car, every bottle, every sign, every product, everything feels completely era specific.

It’s just a bonus that the movie also tells one hell of a story.

It is the mid-60s. Italian sport-car Ferrari is the sexy car company of the moment, a hand-designed sports coupe which annually wins the LeMans grand prix.

Venerable American car maker Ford makes a hell of a lot more money than Ferrari, but it is significantly less hip. It is known for making bulky mom cars, but the young people are starting to look for sleeker, sexier forms of travel. Plus, company president Henry Ford II finds Enzo Ferrari to be a thorn in his side.

Therefore, Ford agrees to hire former racer turned custom car-builder Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to head up the Ford Racing Team and is willing to spend whatever it takes to win at Le Mans with a Ford.

To help him in this possibly impossible task, Shelby turns to fellow driver-and-designer Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Miles is brilliant both as a racer and a designer, but he’s a bit of a wild card: he has no political or emotional filter, leading him to always say the first thing that comes to his mind, no matter how the people he is speaking to may take it. He also chafes at authority. These facts lead the higher-ups at Ford to question and sabotage his part in the project.

In a lot of ways, it is an oddball buddy comedy. Shelby is actually a lot more like Miles than he lets on, but he does understand diplomacy with the corporate bosses. Still, he totally respects and counts on the skills of Miles.

And the racing scenes are stunning.

Just from a thumbnail outline of the story, Ford v. Ferrari seems like a bit of a slight subject to make into a two-and-a-half-hour movie. However, like its heroes, the movie experiments, adds speed and wastes not even a second of screen time.

Even on this long track, Ford v. Ferrari is a fast-moving machine.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: November 15, 2019.

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