This is an absorbing, top-tier Hollywood car racing biopic that dazzles with its technical execution and features one of Christian Bale’s finest performances.
Dir. James Mangold
2019 | USA | Biography/Drama | 152 mins | 2.39:1 | English & Italian
PG13 (passed clean) for some language and peril
Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas
Plot: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto)
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed in theatres)
Ford v Ferrari is one of 2019’s finest movies from Hollywood, and will surely nab multiple nominations for Best Picture, Best Leading Actor (Christian Bale), Best Film Editing, and the two sound categories, plus possibly Best Director and Best Original Screenplay if the ever-tightening Oscar race loosens up a bit.
Comparisons to Rush (2013), the underrated F1 racing biopic, will surely be made, and if all things are considered, including both films’ astounding showcase of technical craft, director James Mangold’s work here kind of edges out the Ron Howard movie due to Bale’s extraordinary performance.
Bale plays Ken Miles with an unnervingly good ‘Brummie’ British accent, who is hired by Carroll Shelby (Damon) to race the new Ford GT40 that the latter has helped to design for the Ford Motor Company.
While the title of the movie seems to suggest two corporate giants battling it out on the racing track, which is mostly the case, Ford v Ferrari could easily be titled ‘Miles and Shelby’ and it will still work, though that would be marketing suicide at any rate.
“Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap. You see it?”
But what I want to point out is that Mangold’s film, while absolutely a blast as a car racing biopic, grounds its absorbing drama in rich characterisations. The stories of Miles and Shelby, set against the larger canvas of car-makers and racing circuits (particularly the 24 Hours of Le Mans), are excitingly and poignantly told.
I was a big fan of car racing when I was younger—but not so much now, though seeing Ford v Ferrari did rekindle the nostalgic joys of childhood and the thrill of playing racing games. (Apart from the ‘The Need for Speed’ series of games, I remembered playing a nondescript if incredibly authentic ‘LeMans’ game—but of course not for 24 hours straight…).
While I was thoroughly engaged by Ford v Ferrari, where 150 minutes felt like 90, I was surprised to find myself with tears in my eyes because car racing is not easy, and it brings to mind the perseverance, sacrifice and dedication of drivers, designers and mechanics who make it possible for dreams to be realised. This struck me emotionally amid the dazzle.