Let’s get one thing out of the way — I love car racing, especially the European kind. And I love racing movies. So no surprise, that when invited to a private screening of the forthcoming Ford vs. Ferrari film hosted by The Hollywood Reporter and Code Advisors — I couldn’t pass up the chance. I am usually very possessive of my evenings, but there is no better way to spend a few hours than to watch the cinematic version of the fabled attack of Ford on the 24 hours Le Mans race.
While the title says “Ford vs. Ferrari,” I would say Ferrari has a supporting role in this movie. Instead, this is a fantastic buddy movie about two men – Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles — who love car racing. Shelby was a premier car designer from America whose name still appears on the Mustangs. Miles was from the United Kingdom and was a driving god.
It was their incredible partnership that helped create a car that ultimately took down Ferrari and its stranglehold on the big race in the 1960s. I adored Christian Bale as Ken Miles, a car racing legend that only the hardcore drivers know. He did proper justice to the role of Miles. I found Damon as Shelby less convincing — not his acting, but to see him play a freewheeling Texan. Also, he feels too short, and that hat looks odd. But together they are combustible, pun intended.
When the car goes fast, everything slows down. And you see everything.Ken Miles, Car Racing Legend.
There are so many little cameos in this movie that make it worth watching. Caitriona Balfe, as Mollie Miles, Ken’s wife, has precious little screentime — she doesn’t need much to have an impact. Neither does John Bernthal, who as Lee Iacocca is perfectly cast. You can see Iacocca’s future in his portrayal. Ray McKinnon, as Phil Remmington was gold, but to me, it was Ken Miles’s son, Peter Miles, played by Noah Jupe, who gave this film a real human dimension.
The movie itself is spectacularly made — the car racing scenes are heart pounding and take you right into the driving seat. You wince when cars collide and go off the road. Cinematography is beautiful– and at least I thought it was better than Rush, you know the Niki Lauda vs. James Hunt move. There is something very romantic about this California light that lifts this film. You can see why everyone thinks highly of director James Mangold. He has transformed what can fall into the trap of a racing movie into a movie about people, ambition, fears, greed and ultimately humanness. It is a simple tale of friendships and relationships. And it is a good old fashioned reminder of can-do spirit, which is getting lost in our contemporary culture.
It is also a movie of how corporate weenies and the “bonus men” can take something so pure and ruin it with their petty ambitions. The film is an apt reminder that you need to be a maverick and out of the box, thinker to make the impossible happen. Yes, money helps, but it isn’t the only thing. You can’t be a paint by numbers automaton to win. Silicon Valley has forgotten the mavericks and is now biased towards career entrepreneurs.
There are many reviews our there, but here are two I will short list for you as a racing fan. First one from the AutoWeek:
If Steve McQueen’s Le Mans had the best racing sequences but little to no discernable plot, and The Art of Racing in the Rain had a plot that was too long and manipulative and got in the way of the few, nicely filmed racing sequences, and if John Frankenheimer’s 1966 hit Grand Prix is the closest any filmmaker had previously ever gotten to the total package, despite its schmaltzy subplots, then Ford v Ferrari is your new Best Racing Movie Ever. Except for maybe Rush, which was also great… or Pixar’s Cars.
And this one from The NewYorker:
Mangold misses a trick. The car developed by Shelby, and piloted by Miles, is the GT40. All that concerns them, understandably, is its pace and its powers of endurance, and when, beside the grid at Le Mans, they spot the Ferraris, resplendent in their scarlet plumage, Miles remarks, “If this were a beauty pageant, we just lost.” Not so. The GT40 was the most beautiful—some would say the only beautiful—creature ever to bear the badge of Ford, and certainly the only one that could look a Ferrari in the headlamps and not blink. Le Mans ’66 was never merely a matter of speed and pride; it was also, in retrospect, a contest to ravish the eye. If you can’t make that clear in a major motion picture, where can you?