“GO LIKE HELL”– Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby
By Cain Dennis
Earlier this week, I got out of work and hurried to my local theater to catch a nighttime showing of “Ford v Ferrari” in IMAX. Although I was entirely unfamiliar with the true story that the film bases itself on, and am relatively uninterested in auto racing, director James Mangold manages to bring together great performances and impressive racing sequences to make this film a very entertaining watch.
Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles and Matt Damon as car designer Carroll Shelby are both well cast and their friendship is believable, especially when it is strained. Damon’s character is trying to keep everything going smoothly with his corporate bosses at Ford while Bale gets to let loose in a hot-head type role that seems to fit him like a glove. Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca is a standout, and I enjoyed seeing him appear often in this film. Many of his appearances feel like glorified cameos, like in 2017’s “Baby Driver” and this year’s fantastic but overlooked “The Peanut Butter Falcon”. This film tries to make Miles’ wife and son the emotional center at times but kind of falls flat in that aspect due to a lack of development for them, especially in a scene where his wife freaks out and yells about mid way through the movie, her performance is good, but we’ve not seen enough of her to have a moment like that pay off that early in the film.
While the film is titled “Ford v Ferrari”, it’s really about Miles and Shelby against the corporate interests that so often stifle the kinds of passion and creativity that people like them bring to the table. This results in the corporate leadership for both companies feeling almost cartoonishly evil, with Ford’s top brass constantly trying to sabotage Ken Miles’ chances for success, as they have deemed him unfit to represent their company due to his demeanor, even though he is clearly the most skilled driver they have access to. Ferrari’s leadership is presented in the same way and there are a few odd moments where the Italian speakers are not given subtitles, and it feels like either the editors just forgot, or thought that they would seem more nefarious if we couldn’t tell what they are saying, in reality it was just distracting and felt like an oversight. While the corporate battle is important, it’s not what makes the movie. I actually prefer the title that is being used using internationally, which is “Le Mans ’66”. I think that it captures the spirit of this film more accurately, while I think that the brand recognition built into its domestic title was too good for 20th Century Fox to pass up.
The driving and racing scenes are exceptional, and Bale’s performance gives so much life to scenes that could very easily fall flat for me. I cared about the outcome of the 24 hours of Le Mans and believed what I was seeing on screen, the driving never once appeared fake and the sound design adds a level of depth. In IMAX, the shrieking tires and engines sound real and the large format picture enhances the intense driving sequences. The $100 million dollar budget shines through in every aspect of the film’s presentation. The cinematography is very good, with some excellent shots and framing even outside of the racing scenes, which are the main attraction.
Without going into spoilers, I felt like the film’s ending was a bit off key, but after looking into the real-life story, it seems to match what actually happened pretty well. Just felt like an emotional leap into territory we hadn’t seen, then the movie just ends. I feel we maybe should have seen more in the way of reactions to a very important late-film event. There’s also times throughout the movie where the score was kind of imposing on scenes where just seeing characters reactions maybe should have stood on their own.
“Ford v Ferrari” has issues developing its tertiary characters and is cartoonish in its representation of the corporate leaders on both sides, but those things aren’t the reason you go see a movie like this. Mangold’s direction, great performances from Bale and Damon and riveting driving scenes make it a fun time at the movies, especially seeing it in a large format. I think that most people will have a great time with it.
I give “Ford v Ferrari”