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Ford v Ferrari Movie Review

Director: James Mangold

Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitríona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, Jack McMullen, Corrado Invernizzi, Tanner Foust, Brent Pontin, Benjamin Rigby, Francesco Bauco, Joe Williamson, Ian Harding, Christopher Darga, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ben Collins, Alex Gurney, Marisa Petroro

Oscar Wins: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing

Other Nominations: Best Sound Mixing, Best Picture

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one of my favorite movies of 2019 would be a film about racing.

Based on the amazing true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless racecar driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), Ford v Ferrari is the story of how these two men come together to battle corporate giants, their own personal demons and the laws of physics to design a revolutionary racecar for the Ford Motor Company that will take on – and hopefully beat – the reigning Le Mans champion, Ferrari.

Riding high after the release of the Thunderbird (which is literally the car of my dreams), Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is unhappy with how things are progressing at the major motor company started by his grandfather. In an effort to encourage innovation, he tells his staff to walk home and come up with the next great idea for Ford Motor Company.

On a wing and a prayer, a young hotshot by the name of Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) presents the idea of getting into the racing game by way of purchasing the struggling Italian company, Ferrari. After pitching the idea to Enzo Ferrari himself, Iacocca is laughed off his high horse, told that Ford makes “ugly little cars” in “big ugly factories”. Ferrari also insults Ford II himself, calling him fat and diminishing his ego in comparison to his grandfather.

Needless to say, Ford does not respond well to the news. He decides to beat Ferrari at its own game, on its own turf. He tells his staff to stop at nothing to build the best and brightest team to create the first American racecar to compete at the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Ferrari’s racecars reign supreme.

Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon). At once one of America’s most incredible racers in the late 1950s, Shelby has been forced into retirement due to a heart condition and now sells sports cars baring his name. Armed with a blank check, his job is to design a racecar for Ford and find the perfect man to drive it.

When I first heard Christian Bale as famed racecar driver Ken Miles on screen, I knew I was going to love him. With an easy, Artful Dodger-style swagger, Ken Miles is a man with motor oil in his veins. He’s everything Ford isn’t – he’s temperamental, he’s sarcastic, he’s dirty and cockney to the core – and, as it turns out, he’s just the man for the job.

Much to the dismay of Ford executives, Shelby brings Miles on board as the lead driver for the team and, just like that, we’re off to the races. What happens next will be no surprise to motorheads, but is really best left unsaid for those of us who do not know this story. Suffice it to say, you don’t need to be a car person to appreciate the story that animates Ford v. Ferrari. Yes, it’s a car movie, but it’s also a drama and a comedy and a buddy movie and really works well in all those categories, thanks mainly to the casting.

Bale continues to prove that he’s one of the best actors working today, carrying this film much like his character carried his racing team. Fresh off his work on Vice, another fantastic film, Bale completely disappears into this role, bringing Ken Miles to life in a way only he can. Similar to Miles and the cars he loved, I think Bale is best when directors just cut him loose – give him a long, open road and let him hit the gas…and with that freedom, Bale rides smooth on to the finish line here.

Though his part is somewhat smaller, Damon is also great in this movie – doing what he does best: sarcastically breaking all the rules. Not only is he designing, rebuilding and redesigning this car for Ford, he’s also dancing a delicate dance with the Ford executives, particularly one Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas – man you’ll love to hate this guy) who wants Miles gone because he insulted Bebbe’s little pride and joy, the Ford Mustang. Boys will be boys, right?

From a directorial standpoint, this film shines. Directed by James Mangold, who also was behind the camera for a few other amazing films including Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted, Ford v Ferrari proves he’s the up-and-coming director worth watching. With stunning camerawork and a script that is just as funny as it is heartbreaking, Ford v. Ferrari will no doubt go down as one of the best films in Mangold's career.

In the end, this is simply a movie about pride – being proud of who you are, proud of what you stand for, and what ends your willing to meet if that pride is hurt. It was seriously the most entertaining theater experience I’ve had in years and I can’t wait to add this one to my collection. Will it win Best Picture? Probably not. But, as Ken Miles said, “It’s not about the win, it’s about the ride.” And this is one hell of a ride.


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