American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
Review: Have you been in a situation where you watch a film, and you think, okay, this is very formulaic? I guess yes would be the answer. Then again, if you have, have you enjoyed the said film? Maybe yes, maybe no. With Walk The Line and Logan director James Mangold’s latest, Ford v Ferrari, I was stuck midway. I quite liked the film, enjoyed the bromance between the two leads, and was glued to the screen in the racing sequences, but far too many passages and characters looked like set versions of a format to me, and that took away some of the joy.
The film is based on a real-life story. In the 1960s, struggling with a dip in sales, Ford Motor Co. decided to take a plunge in racing. They tried to buy Ferrari, but the deal fell through. That motivated Henry Ford II, the grandson of the original Henry Ford and then-head of the firm, to go all-out into making his own racing car. Carroll Shelby, an ex-Le Mans winner and car designer, was roped in for the task. He got Ken Miles as a driver for the team. How it unfolded is something I wouldn’t spoil. Suffice it to say that the film stays true to the actual history as far as the broad strokes are concerned.
My trouble was the stereotypical characters that felt jaded. So, Ferrari boss Enzo Ferrari is shown as the shrewd and dishonest foreigner who looks down upon American car firms and tries to hold Ford back at every turn. That is not historically true. And it’s one of many such choices the screenplay makes. I understand that I was watching a feature film, not a documentary, but if the shifts away from reality had been novel, maybe it’d have been more palatable for me. Ken Miles’ personal life, comprising his wife and his son, is also featured as a way of grounding the character. But while his son’s hero-worship-of-the-father is a warm thread, the wife’s character (played by Caitriona Balfe) almost always stays in the background, rarely influencing the story.
On the other hand, as already mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie between the leads, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Their banter, friendship and back-and-forth lights up the film right from the first scene they’re together in. The practical and accommodating Shelby against the hotheaded loner of Miles is played extremely well. Even in these roles, I understood that they are playing different stereotypes of the hero, but their performances take these roles above and beyond the cliche.
The racing scenes are excellent as well. The early races have a sense of inevitability about them, but still, they’ve been shot to give the viewer a thrill of the race. The final race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes up around 30 minutes of the runtime, and is every bit as good as any sports racing set-piece seen in a film.
Overall, if you can look beyond the formulaic trappings of the film, Ford v Ferrari is a story of brotherhood and racing diehards and an adrenaline-pumping ride that provides great entertainment value.
Genre : Sports, Comedy, Drama
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐1/2 out of 5⭐
P. S. –
- Paul MacInnes argues in this piece for The Guardian that the film deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar. I agree with some of the points he raises, although I strongly believe the film isn’t so good as to win the top gong at the Academy Awards.
- If you want to compare the film with the real history, check this out. Spoilers by the dozen though, so be warned.
Featured image courtesy.
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