Review: Ford v Ferrari

The fascinating true story behind two hotshot racecar drivers who seek to change the status quo of American automobiles and their reputation on the world stage speeds into theaters this week with Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles.

Throughout the mid-1960s, Ferrari has staked its claim on the international racing circuit by consecutively winning the prestigious 24 hour racing circuit in Le Mans, France. Car tycoon Henry Ford II wants to upend that streak by building the best racecar the world has ever seen in the factory where his family made history, but to do that, he enlists the help of Shelby, who was the only American to win at Le Mans at the time, to build and design the car for Miles, who knows better than anyone how they move and operate, to take the fight to Ferrari on the track.

Ford v Ferrari is something of a bumpy ride. It gets to its destination and there are a lot of interesting sights to take in but every now in then, it lags and shifts gears too abruptly for my taste. It’s certainly a crowd-pleaser and a testament to American ingenuity and competition but I felt as though the movie lost sight of whose story it was trying to tell in the grand scheme of things.

James Mangold jumped into the driver’s seat for this movie and used the great performances from his two main leads to fuel this vehicle of a film, but I think some fine-tuning of the screenplay, courtesy of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller, could have made a significant difference. The plot felt a little unbalanced in its framework and focused too heavily on Damon and Bale’s characters.

That is to say, I felt this picture was more Shelby and Miles vs. Ford and Ferrari, in that there was forced tension between the Ford team that hired Shelby to complete this task and the Ford team was practically reduced to background in this picture. I felt that this movie suffered from mis-advertising and created a different set of expectations than originally implied.

Christian Bale was excellent, as always, and Matt Damon did a great job with his performance. The entire cast was solid across the board, from Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Noah Jupe, Josh Lucas, Tracy Letts, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, Jack McMullen to JJ Felid, this film featured some very good performers.

Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders did nice work with the music, Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography was fitting for this picture and Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt’s editing was surgically precise, François Audouy’s production design was decent, the art direction team under Maya Shimoguchi did a fine job, Peter Lando’s set decoration was good and the costumes from Daniel Orlandi were solid.

When it came down to it, I wasn’t entirely crazy about Ford v Ferrari but I appreciated many aspects of its final design. I think this movie was more Ford than it was a Ferrari, if you catch my drift.

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