James Mangold’s racing drama Ford v Ferrari should sit among favourites like The Martian, Moneyball and Days of Thunder. Though it aptly balances smarts, emotion and fast-paced fun, it lacks the depth of these qualities when compared to the aforementioned films. Hence, it is not as re-watchable.
While it may help to have some knowledge of cars and the racing industry, this doesn’t deter from the core narrative. Instead, the film focusses on the friendship between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, who were tasked by Ford to build a car and compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in an attempt to defeat the reigning Ferrari team.
Considering the timing of its release, Ford v Ferrari feels a little too ‘Oscar-by-numbers’; a true underdog story, likeable leads, family values, romance, tragedy, non-American villains and a blatant ‘down with corporate’ theme. It’s the American Dream brought to life.
Historically, this may be what the Academy committee look for in a Best Picture winner, but having it all packaged together so neatly feels cliché and exhausted.
That being said, there’s more than enough appeal here to cover the cost of a movie ticket. Ford v Ferrari is worthy of the big screen, largely thanks to the chemistry between the leading duo and the film’s intense racing sequences.
Christian Bale steals the show, portraying goofy English driver Ken Miles, whose foot spends as much time on the accelerator as it does in his mouth. Matt Damon plays ex-racing carmaker Caroll Shelby in charming, gum-chewing fashion, though the accent and emotion feel somewhat forced at times.
The pair are backed by a capable supporting cast, with standouts including Tracy Letts as piggish Henry Ford II and Josh Lucas as his weaselly second-in-charge Leo Beebe. The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal goes against type as Ford marketing executive Lee Iacocca, and while he’s fine in the role, it’s weird not seeing him shoot or punch anyone in the face.
The racing footage splits between standard broadcast television coverage, first-person documentary style, and close-up reaction shots of Bale and Damon behind the wheel. It’s gripping to watch, but unfortunately, let down by the sometimes long-winded subplots that come in between.
If you can set the cheesiness aside, Ford v Ferrari is highly enjoyable and will no doubt receive nominations come awards season. Motorheads will probably go back for repeat viewings, too. Though ironically, for a film about maximum revs per minute, it spends most of the run-time in neutral.
Ford v Ferrari is in cinemas now.
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