Ford v Ferrari delivers a story of friendship and excellent performances amidst incredible action sequences that will appeal to non-racing enthusiasts as well.
Ford v Ferrari****
*ing: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Tracy Letts
Directed by James Mangold
This is not Ron Howard’s Rush where two dynamic but radically different car racers take on each other at the highest form of the racing game for the highest glory while holding a certain amount of respect for each other – Niki Lauda and James Hunt (with the latter role proving to be the breakthrough for one Chris Hemsworth).
Ford v Ferrari is its opposite.
At its heart, it’s about the partnership and the deep friendship of two men who changed the course of history for these two companies while being associated with one of them for a period in time.
A brilliant cast (Matt Damon aka Jason Bourne and Christian Bale aka Batman), a solid director, James Mangold (Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line, Logan), a human drama wrapped with hot action sequences and some gorgeous cinematography are some of the reasons why Ford v Ferrari is creating serious Oscar buzz since its arrival.
The film, directed by James Mangold, draws mostly from a true story with many embellishments. It tells the tale of brilliant American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the bold British-born driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale).
Together the two take on corporates and insecure executives, while dealing with personal issues only to construct a car for Ford Motor Company that takes on the leading racing cars of Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
Our introduction to the film, however, is not a friendship. It is Carroll Shelby sitting with a doctor. He has personal demons he treats with medication and by running a car dealership of sorts while living in a trailer. He can do so much better but it is as if he has let a part of himself go as innovator and the visionary because he can no longer race due to health reasons.
While Shelby is now almost-content with this life even though he can achieve more, a disaster is taking place at Ford Motor Company.
The American car giant is making more cars than Ferrari – whose cars at that point in time were made for racing enthusiasts and not for sale to every Italian – unlike Ford in America.
Henry Ford II (played by Tracy Letts), currently at the helm of things, is not pleased with the way Ford is doing in the market. Add to it the behavior of Ferrari and the idea of Ford Motor’s Racing Division is born. Shelby is at the helm of it. And he recognizes that apart from a car, he needs a driver and no one is a better candidate than Ken Miles (Bale), a mechanic and engineer who is carefree, charismatic and understands the mechanics of a car better than any of the executives he has come across at Ford.
Ken, says Shelby, is the best man to drive the Ford car but many see him as an outlier, a non-company man. What happens next is for you to find out. It would be unfair to give the whole film away.
So, why is Ford v Ferrari, a testosterone-fueled drama, such a must-see film?
For one thing, Christian Bale tends to take on dark roles. With Ken Miles, he strays out of his comfort zone as this man who can piss people off the moment he opens his mouth but to see that zany banter is an enjoyable adventure like no other. Ken Miles also has a son and the moments with his son, when he drives him late at night and talks about markers on the racing ground or just their interaction, makes for alluring human drama backed by beautiful cinematography. Bale is the opposite of what we’ve come to expect of him in films and as British born Ken Miles he deliver 100 per cent.
The second and no small reason is Matt Damon. Imagine being a racer and building a car for someone else to drive and make history. But that’s the deal. And it’s the deal that pushes him out of the trailer, out of the dealership into a mammoth million dollars operation. But much more than that, Damon’s Shelby protects Ken; this is the partnership and friendship that drives the film more than any stunning car and there are many. Matt Damon (with The Martian, Jason Bourne franchise to his credit) pulls another miraculous performance here.
The storyline never gets incoherent; the narrative has layers that get explored but there are moments that bring comic relief such as when Ken and Shelby are beating each other outside Ken’s house and Ken’s wife puts a chair outside and watches the two men have a go at each other until they are too tired. And as they are talking to each other about who did what in the fight, she brings them both a drink. It’s snappy, it’s funny and it’s human. There is no green screen and no capes here.
What happens at the race and afterwards? Does the partnership work? Where does Shelby end up as the film ends? Those are questions to which you will find the answers to if you watch the film. And this is one hell of a ride. It is nothing like a Fast and the Furious either to which we’ve grown so accustomed to it. This film, however, is so much more. Highly recommended!
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection