Director: James Mangold
Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal
Screenplay: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
152 mins. Rated PG-13 for some language and peril.
It’s weird how much I love racing films and movies about cars because I really have no interest or knowledge of them in real life. It doesn’t matter to me if they are true stories, like the one we’re going to talk about today, or if they exist in varying degrees of over-the-top insanity, like the Fast and the Furious franchise or Speed Racer. I just love car and racing films, so I was very excited to see Ford v Ferrari. I heard a lot of festival buzz and award love coming from my colleagues, and now I’m ready to talk about it.
Ford Motors is looking for a way to boost their sales, and Vice President Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Accountant) has an idea: purchase the financially-struggling Ferrari, but when their offer is declined and they are made fools of, Henry Ford II orders Iacocca to assemble a team capable of beating Ferrari at the difficult and dangerous 24 Hours of Le Mans. Iaccoca goes to Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot), who actually won Le Mans some years earlier, to help with this daunting task, and Shelby goes to the difficult-to-handle racer and mechanic Ken Miles (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) to get behind the wheel. As race day nears, time is short and concerns run wild, and Shelby and Miles learn that the difficulties in winning the race may come from Ford itself.
Ford v Ferrari is damn good, and a lot of that comes from the performances of both Damon and Bale. Damon biggest reason in taking the role of Shelby was getting the chance to work with Bale, and the two have very strong chemistry as they go at the various problems of their quest from different angles. Damon’s performance is rather subdued and subtle, whereas Bale’s is more flashy and juicy, but that isn’t to knock either. They both play to exactly their strengths and exactly the character they need to, but neither is trying to steal the spotlight from the other.
The unspoken star of the film is Bernthal as Iacocca. He’s the unspoken star of just about everything he’s in, and he never gets the credit he deserves. His way of dancing between friend and for in an effort to complete the monumental task he is assigned is really interesting and strong, and it’s only because of Bernthal that the character is as memorable as he is.
Director James Mangold (Logan, Knight and Day) certainly understands how to direct action from his time on films like 3:10 to Yuma and the X-Men franchise, and he does not disappoint here. It’s tricky work making a race look cinematic, although Mangold’s handle on it makes it look easy. Remember this is a film about people driving in circles for 24 hours, and yet, I almost never noticed that realization.
My biggest faults with the film lie in the somewhat bloated run time and the way it orchestrates its final scenes. This film did not need 152 minutes. It could have easily chopped off 20 minutes or so. In fact, they could cut the last few minutes quite simply as well. There’s a few scenes at the end, after the race is over, that I feel are unneeded and don’t serve the narrative. You can say that the sequences shown are important information, but we must remember that this is a film and the characters need to serve the story. I don’t feel like the last few minutes of the film do that, but that’s just me.
James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari is an excellent racing movie, and it’s an excellent story of friendship between two unlikely men with a shared passion. Both Matt Damon and Christian Bale are great together, and the film is supported by some impressive supporting players as well. I highly recommend this one.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.
For my review of James Mangold’s Logan, click here.