There’s a reason Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times placed Ford v Ferrari as his top film of 2019: It is a refreshingly uncontrived look at male camaraderie, and it revitalizes the sports movie genre, even if you have a low motorsports IQ.
Yes, there are several mentionings of 427-cubic-inch big-block engines, GT40 acronyms, and 7,000 RPMs, and I nod now in acknowledgement of these terms because this movie not only entertained me in the ways of the racecar, it educated me as well.
Take the apex race this entire movie is centered around…
The “Le Mans” race in France is one of the most prestigious races in the world because it gives the win to the car that travels the most distance in 24 hours.
In other words, this need for speed requires human stamina, engineered metal stamina, and trust stamina.
When Ford wanted to amp their post-WWII image to the youngsters, they had to trust the idea behind winning the Le Mans despite Ferrari’s dominance in the past four races, Carroll Shelby’s (Matt Damon) vision and design of the car, and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who Shelby favored to drive the “the beast,” even though he had an erratic temper and British, non-Built-Ford-Tough persona. It’s really bureaucratic corporate idealism vs. elbow grease racer grit.
Bale and Damon are simply great. They are likable and believable, and their relationship grows from sponsorship to companionship without ever feeling forced for Oscar points.
Originally, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were supposed to be the starring roles, but coinciding movie schedules prevented it.
Where Cruise and Pitt play for Hollywood varsity, Bale and Damon play for JV, and when the going gets tough, most fans root for the underdogging, underappreciated JVs out there.
And, that is exactly what this movie is about: the underdogs, the underappreciated, and the internal reactions to “the things I cannot change” and the courage it takes to change them. “Plans change,” says Shelby when he’s forced to push his driver and car beyond mechanical limitations.
If there’s anything that’s not forced, it is the character development and reaction to factual, historical adversity. Even Miles’ intensely supportive relationship with his wife, Mollie (a humble standout, Caitriona Balfe) feels real, challenged, and unique. He is the odd duck to the Ford industry, but he’s also the fastest racecar driver out there. His wife, son, and friend are there for him, but you quickly realize he has to race for himself because, in the end, it’s just him and the open, lonely road.
The ending is not as predictable as you might anticipate. And, when it comes to sewing character development with actual “biodoc” facts, this movie couldn’t be anymore seamless.
I am a mechanically ignorant but passionately musical educator who finally found a movie that is worthy of the top film of 2019. I hope you enjoy it as well. Please let me know 😊
Ford v. Ferrari ****1/2 out of *****