Ford vs Ferrari (2019)

AKA Le Mans ’66

Director: James Mangold
Starring:Christian Bale, Matt Damon, .USA. 2h 15m

For someone who isn’t into cars or racing all that much I have really enjoyed the small number of racing biopics that have hit the big screen in recent years. With so much energy from director James Mangold as he explores the run up to Le Mans 66 and the epic battle between two powerful car manufacturing giants from either side of the pong, he digs deep into the psyche’s of the less credited geniuses behind their success. Maybe it’s the drive and passion behind the vehicles which is more cerebral than the end race but I feverishly awaited this after enjoying Rush (2013), both movies are handsome looking and thrilling in their humanity but for die hard fans of the racing world, there’s nothing much new to enjoy but for the outsiders looking in, the film kicks into top gear and does a good job in keeping it there through to the bitter end.

Mangold manages to structure his movie around the dynamic relationship of Ken Miles (Bale) and Caroll Shelby (Damon) who’s success in biographical movies is quite outstanding, his part in Behind The Candelabra (2013) really matches the caliber of the much seasoned Michael Douglas. Twined with Damon’s thoughtful and laid back performance, Bale gives us his typical approach to his only British persona, a dull and loud drawn out London Street Merchant type of character which he forces to fit every character, but his dedicated to every role, especially as Dickie Edlknd in The Fighter (2010) he’s very adept as character acting so this should be a thrill right?

Carefully setting the movie in the early 60’s the film opens up as Ford attempts to team with Ferrari but the stuffy Italian artisan company couldn’t fathom working with the ugliness of mass produced Fords or Americans in general and sends the the messenger back with his tail between his legs and a rather nasty message for the Ford boss. This spurs on Ford to hire Carol Shelby to put together a car and team that can outrace the italians at any cost except they seem to try and clip his wings at every step of the way especially when he hires Ken Miles, a grumpy, impulsive and ready to fight genius, he’s not pretty but he knows his business when it comes to speed and cars, and the perfect duo get to work after fighting in the streets outsides Ken’s home and make up while drinking fizzy pop.

The brotherly friendship is frowned upon by the flashy suits at Ford, especially the over ambitious and creep Leo Beebe, played by Josh Lucas who’s smirk and greasy grin really prefects a face you’d love to slap, sadly his counterpart who’s more down to death and who can see the bigger picture is crafted by Jon Bernthal who does what he can for such an underwritten role. But the insult is with Mollie, the long suffering wife of Ken, she seems to share his passion for cars, engines and racing, she’s passionate and yet she’s given very little to do, just wifey duties and regular encouragement but is the film intended to just be a lads only movie? There does seem to be a damning view of women filtered through the script, intentional or not it can’t be avoided.

The racing scenes themselves are well handled, the timing of gear changing, revs and music are superb and the CGI cars are perfectly rendered and give a clean look to the fastest scenes, but sadly they aren’t scattered throughout the movie evenly but the final act is slick, Whenever anyone hops into a car in Ford Vs Ferrari even the family saloon there’s a sense of danger, little Mollie tries to prove a point to her husband but speeding the car home at breakneck speed which is quite comical to see him shit himself while just about clocking 60, but there is a woman at the wheel… sigh… But the sense of how dangerous F1 cars can be is very apparent especially when they go up in flames…

The heat of 1966 really comes into its own as the film winds down just before hitting the race track, but as the film sparks drama right until the end of the race it continues with a short piece detailing the actual end of the story and the standard-issue, middleweight biopic factual notes over the closing credits and the black-and-white pictures of real people involved looking more average than the shiny perfect actors who played them.

For unaware noobs like me who know very little about the world of racing and any of the characters involved it’s a really thrilling movie with lots of marvel at, but I fully respect that for the lads and ladettes who are fully involved and where this is just another well known chapter, they might not find this all that fun. At times it deviates from the truth for the cinematic amusement but it begs the big question, why is this being made, to highlight the rivalry between the car companies, has something been revealed about Ken? Is it an historic anniversary? In all honestly none of this seems to apply but it’s here now and I can’t stop watching it and i love that kick that the movie gets when the peddle goes to the metal.

Rating: 7/10

R:Rush (2013), the Fighter (2010), Behind the Candelabra (2013), Le Mans (1971)
L: Racing Movies, Biopics
5s:Christian Bale, Matt Damo
Vs: Le Mans 66 Vs le Mans
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One thought on “Ford vs Ferrari (2019)”

  1. Terrific review…when my wife and I watched it, we admired it, found it well made, and also frustrating: what WAS the point? Don’t want to discuss plot points but ultimately it was difficult for us to be happy for ANYONE!

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