Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari is an enthralling and captivating film, capturing the beating spirit of the American dream with its complex characters, played with unrelenting motivation by Matt Damon and Christian Bale. James Mangold's direction elevates the true-life story to heightened levels, which makes for one of the year's most exhilarating films.
James Mangold‘s Ford v Ferrari is a fast-paced rush of adrenaline as it follows the real-life story of the men who helped Ford go toe-to-toe with Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans of 1966. Ford v Ferrari is a deconstruction of the what it means to chase the American dream, from both sides of the fence as it shows both fearlessness and determination from the brave and creative men, as well as corporate greed and the will to be the best at all costs.
It is the mid 1960s and Ferrari has yet again proved that they are the fastest and most edgy sports car makers in the world. Meanwhile in America, Ford continues to see halted sales and a lack of invigoration from all involved. Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) knows that he needs to shake the company up, but he has not the slightest clue as to how.
Ford tells his staff that something needs to happen or else they will be out of a job in no time, which lights the spark under Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) to start thinking differently, in hopes of rebranding Ford yet again.
This introduces Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a successful American car designer and former racer. Shelby once won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is a day-long race between the biggest and baddest car makers on the planet. But, a health issue sidelines Shelby, which causes him to focus all of his energy on producing groundbreaking sports cars for a high-end crowd.
Iacocca confronts Shelby and promises him a deal of a lifetime — help design the car that is going to beat Ferrari at the next 24 Hours of Le Mans, which means that Ford will have to completely rethink how they design their cars.
Shelby hesitantly agrees, with the agreement that he gets to bring his own crew, including racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a hothead that’s a bit of an unorthodox, but gets results.
Ford v Ferrari follows Shelby and Miles as they do battle not only with Ferrari, but with the corporate greed of Ford as they attempt to change the world and chase their own version of the American dream.
Director James Mangold is no stranger to making adult-oriented dramas that are unafraid to tackle complexity head-on — see his gritty comic book Western Logan. Here, Mangold approaches the story from the point-of-view of Carroll Shelby, a man held back by his own heart, despite wanting so desperately to pour it completely into the notion of standing up to someone telling him that he can’t do something.
Carroll Shelby is the middle ground between the sticky tape of the big wigs and the beating heart of revolution. Matt Damon gives Shelby an enormous amount of likability, yet conflict as we are constantly witnessed to Shelby having to make unfavorable decisions that are mostly for the good of the team or the end goal.
This leads to him butting heads directly with Ken Miles, a racer that is unafraid to punch you square in the face if he disagrees with you. Bale gives Miles an incredible amount of humanity, showing his conflict of passion between doing what he loves to do and also providing for his wife and young boy. Miles isn’t unrealistic of what needs to be done, but he understands the importance of standing by ideals that mean something that is worth more than all of the money in the world.
This is where Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth & Jason Keller‘s script really gets interesting. Ford v Ferrari doesn’t paint a clear picture of what is right and wrong or who is bad or good, because real-life consists of many people and events that often walk that tight line in-between.
On one side of the story, you have Shelby trying to regain a little spotlight and dignity by working with Ford towards dethroning a car company that truly thinks that they are better than anyone or anything. On the other hand, you have Shelby and Miles going toe-to-toe with Henry Ford II and his corporate monsters that are constantly trying to take credit for their achievements and push them back whenever they notice too much progression or outlaw.
It’s a balancing act that is fleshed out perfectly, thanks to a script that’s unafraid to track a little mud and direction that feels pulse-pounding and sharp.
Mangold’s ability to balance his heavy-hitting characters with overall story is electrical and engaging. Ford v Ferrari might not be a traditional action movie, but it’ll certainly have you on the edge of your seat on more than one occasion.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale turn in a pair of performances that are surely headed for the Oscars. Damon’s Shelby is constantly battling himself for his own relevancy and his own love for what truly matters.
Bale’s Miles breaks through his own stubbornness to understand the importance of the greater good, yet not lose sight of what’s important and why they are even doing what they are doing — it’s not about the victory at the finish line, but the race that got you there.
Ultimately, Ford v Ferrari is a shining example of just how difficult chasing the American dream can be and how different it is to each and everyone of us. James Mangold‘s film gives us an astute recollection of the events that took place leading to and at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in a way that doesn’t feel like a dramatic history lesson, but instead a wild thrill ride of emotions and stakes.
Ford v Ferrari is a great example of modern day Hollywood alive and kicking, a shining example of why going to the movies is still a relevant and exciting way to consume media. This is an original, adult-oriented drama that has something for everyone and I highly encourage that you get out and see it, because it’s worth the price of admission and then some.