By Megan Bianco
So many cars, so many close-ups, the designer name dropping, and of course, the flashy race sequences. Add all of this on top of two big-name stars—Matt Damon and Christian Bale—and a successful, popular director, and you have James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferarri.
Mangold has quite a lot of range as a studio moviemaker, with past hits like the drama Girl Interrupted (1999), the horror flick Identity (2003), the western remake 3:10 to Yuma (2007), the superhero character study Logan (2017), and arguably the best music biopic of all time, Walk the Line (2005). Here with Ford v. Ferrari, he adds a sports-action feature to his resume.
It’s 1963 and the Ford Motor Company needs both an image makeover and a guaranteed win at the next 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Vice President Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) thinks buying the Ferrari model will do the trick. Meanwhile, former racer Carroll Shelby (Damon) is forced to quit driving because of a heart condition and is now a custom manufacturer. English driver Ken Miles (Bale) is living in the United States with his family, struggling to get gigs at local races, and worried because his garage is on the verge of bankruptcy. Tracy Letts plays Henry Ford II and Josh Lucas is Ford senior exec Leo Beebe.
This collection of corporate titans and maverick racers comes together to create the perfect car for the world’s most iconic race — the Ford GT40.
So what does Ford v. Ferrari have that we didn’t already get six years earlier with Ron Howard’s own race car picture Rush (2013)? Well, not much. Script-wise, this is probably the most basic, safest movie released this season. There’s hardly any foul language, nothing controversial, only two scenes of violence (and without weapons) and no sex. In fact, more sex appeal in the film comes from the cars themselves than any woman, because there’s only one female character in the whole movie—Miles’ wife Mollie, played by Caitriona Balfe.
But what it does have, it does well enough. The car sequences, whether the visual effects, editing, sound design or direction, are all spot-on and worthy of the technical awards this winter. Despite being co-lead, Bale’s performance as Miles is the heart of the film and really succeeds with both his hot-temper on the road, and supportive father role at home.
If you see this exciting sports biopic over the holidays, make sure it’s on a big screen.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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