Films revolving around fast cars and furious drivers may be the in thing, but to bring a real incident to screen in the same manner, that doesn’t happen much. James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari does exactly that and takes the audience on a ride of a lifetime. It is a biographical sports film about men, for men with two of the best actors in the world Christian Bale and Matt Damon giving award-worthy performances. Add some conflict with the well-dressed Ford executives, some grease-stained manliness and the Le Mans effect and you have a gripping American tale that brings alive characters that are part of the racing folklore.
The film takes place in the mid-1960s when Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) wanted to embarrass Ferrari because he didn’t agree to the offer the former put to the Italian Stallion. The grandson of Henry Ford then decided to construct a car that would win Le Mans, defeating Ferrari where they considered themselves undefeated. Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), one former Le Mans winner and one eccentric driver who might make Ford’s dream come true. Do they manage to embarrass Ferrari, dodge the executives at the Ford Motor company and achieve the unthinkable, find that out by taking a trip to the local cinema and watching Ford v Ferrari before it races away.
Ever since Rush was released in cinemas in 2013, the audience has been waiting for a racing flick that makes their blood rush, literally. That’s where Ford v Ferrari excels as James Mangold brings to life the true story of a famous four-wheeled feud. Not only did he get the best actors for the roles – Matt Damon for Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale for Ken Miles – he also had a screenplay that did justice with all the actors. Be it the scene where Shelby and Miles discuss creating a fast car in 90 days or where they fight each other right outside Miles’ house, their interaction and chemistry makes the film near perfect.
Matt Damon plays the level-headed American charmer who needs to convince both the evil-executives at Ford that Christian Bale’s British WWII Veteran is the best driver for the job, and then convince the driver that he has his back. Bale might be unrecognizable for he lost more than 70 pounds to look the part, but his performance is spot on. He became this skinny British driver from Dick Cheney in Vice, and if that’s not worth an award, I don’t know what is. John Lucas’s Leo Beebe is the ultimate villain here as he tries to create bumps within different Ford teams; he is so good that you feel like throwing a wrench at him by the end of the film.
The film is nearly 2.5 hours long and although it zips by, it does make the younger audience look at their watches; the millennials have less attention span than their predecessors and that’s why they prefer Netflix over films. Ford v Ferrari is all about how men prepare for a race, how they deal with double-crossing executives and maybe that’s why Molly and Miles’ relationship breaks the flow. Considering the audience came to watch fast cars race faster, not a doting couple shower each other with love, their arc could have been minimized. And then there is the familiarity element regarding the plot – many racing movies before that have gone in the same direction, and although there is a huge twist in the end, the rest of the movie moves like it is on auto-pilot.
The Verdict 4/5
Ford v Ferrari might be released in England as Le Mans ’66, but the soul of the film remains the same. It not just makes you want to watch all the racing films there are but also read about the Le Mans ’66, where all the action happened. How James Mangold managed to carve a perfect film from a story that nearly everyone who loves Racing knows in America is beyond me. Both Christian Bale and Matt Damon are superb as they depict two of the most famous racers in American culture, and it would be an injustice to both if they aren’t nominated for an Oscar, for Best Actor. The supremely handled racing scenes not only make your blood pressure rise but the interaction off the track also adds to the equation. For a film that is more than 150 minutes long, Ford v Ferrari passes by at express speed, making you notice everything from different cars, colorful drivers to change in weather, helping you feel whatever the characters are going through. Even the supporting actors do a commendable job because they had to, otherwise, they would have faded in the brightness left by the primary stars. A not-to-be-missed affair!