Rob Reviews "Ford v Ferrari"
With as many jokes as there are out there about NASCAR and the way their races normally work, the outsider may not be aware of the handful of races they do each year on what are called “road courses”. Apart from the triangular or ovular tracks they are known for, these courses have a number of different kinds of turns and road designs, making things more challenging for the racers and their teams. Now, take those kinds of courses and run that kind of race for twenty-four hours STRAIGHT and you have the yearly tradition that is the race in Le Mans, France each June. Taking place every year since 1923, the best racers in the world are on teams vying for the prestigious title, with Porsche winning more times than anyone else at 19. In the 1950s, Ferrari dominated the scene with no American car company ever coming close. The story of the first group of men to make a serious attempt comes to light in director James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari”.
Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby of Shelby Cobra fame (man knew how to make a muscle car… SERIOUSLY). Having retired from racing himself, he owns a car dealership while sponsoring races for his friend and hot-head driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). With the Ford brand fading in the age of Baby Boomers becoming drivers, Marketing guru Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) comes up with the idea for the company to make a car that will compete in Le Mans after trying miserable to buy the Ferrari company for themselves. As the Mustang hits the market, Iacocca enlists Shelby to be on the team to make the car while Shelby enlists Miles do drive, much to the chagrin of overly zealous executive Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas). As the team tries to overcome the obstacles of what it will take to win the most grueling auto race in the world, they also try to overcome their differences with each other to restore the name of Henry Ford and the empire he created two generations prior.
One of the things we talk about quite a bit when we review movies in our audio Home Shows (make sure to subscribe and bookmark the Vokal Now website and/or download the app to get those) is when Don asks me about how long it took me to look at my watch the first time. I am VERY time-conscious, and the longer a film can keep my attention, the more I tend to not pay attention to how much longer I will be seated in the auditorium. In this particular case, I was nervous because I had left my watch at home and in respect to the theater experience, I was not going to light up my phone to check the time. Knowing this, my plan was to excuse myself in what I felt was a lull in the story to go to the lobby and see where we were at; however, this film is so well done that I NEVER LEFT THE AUDITORIUM and was never really worried about the time. Not having known much about this story, I was fascinated as it unfolded in not-the-normal fairy tale kind of way. Showing the blemishes and frustrations just as much as the triumphs and celebrations, there are a number of great twists and turns here (pun intended) that kept me focused on the screen at all times. With the right balance of action, humor, intensity, and drama without anything that could be seen as objectionable to most, even those who could not care less about the sport will find something to latch onto here.
And this kind of story does not go nearly as well without a solid cast bringing it to life. Christian Bale still shows how he will go down as a legend in this industry (Batman bias aside) with his portrayal as the rebel driver whose knowledge of automobiles and driving acumen is a credit to him just as much as a detriment, while Damon brings another great performance to the grizzled veteran who wants to make the fastest car in history. The thing I dig about Matt Damon is that he never really disappears into any of his roles, but he still is able to sell each and every character he plays in a way that is believable on every level. The supporting cast (including Tracy Letts in a great turn as Henry Ford II) pushes this story forward at a perfect pace that kept me invested all the way through.
While “Ford v Ferrari” may not be one of those films that screams awards bait, this is one that will stand out in the sprint to the end of 2019, fresh in the minds of those who cast votes for the best of the year. And trust me, I will find a way to see this film in the Dolby Cinema if I can because this seems like the kind of film that format was made for.