“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Now that quote may be a joke, but 20th Century Fox’s newest film, “Ford v Ferrari,” sure isn’t.
By Matt Korn
Wrapping up a year of underperforming films (anyone remember “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”? No? …what about “The Art of Racing in the Rain”?) “Ford v Ferrari” is not only a redemption story for The Walt Disney Company’s newest studio in 2019, but arguably a refresher in the American spirit.
The film, which is based on true events, revolves around some of the most legendary names in automotive history.
It’s the mid-60’s and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) isn’t happy with the direction of Ford Motor Company, the American staple created by his father in 1903. Marketing Executive Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) has an idea – inject sex appeal and “perfection” into the brand by buying Italian sports car maker Ferrari. But when the European rendezvous doesn’t go as planned, Iacocca returns to Ford with the bad news.
“What did he say?” asks Ford.
“He said Ford makes ugly little cars in ugly factories,” says Iacocca. “And, um, he called you fat, sir.”
The look on Ford’s face following the dig is enough to make any viewer wonder at what lengths Ford would go to bury Ferrari. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait long for an answer.
Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), two racers at very different points in their lives. When Iacocca recruits Shelby to help beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race is on to build a winning car and team.
What’s not surprising about this film is the power of its ensemble and the chemistry between everyone (including and especially the headliners). Oscar buzz is already kicking up around Bale’s portrayal of Miles, but it’s Damon’s performance that steals the show. Damon’s portrayal as the seasoned and diplomatic Shelby is easily in his top 3 performances of all-time (rivaling his Oscar-nominated performance in “Good Will Hunting”).
Outside of the headliners, Bernthal continues to hold his own against A-Listers (he was also in “Fury,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “Baby Driver”) and prove that he’s one of the more under-recognized talents in Hollywood. Caitriona Balfe’s supporting performance as Mollie Miles is simply a delight, and the dimension that her and Noah Jupe (Peter Miles) adds gives “Ford v Ferrari” the substance that helps elevate it into the ‘Best Picture’ conversation.
Director James Mangold (“Logan,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) does a masterful job with direction and pacing of this 2-hour and 32-minute film. He blends the heart in character-building with thrilling and personal action sequences. Mangold expertly taps into the emotions that make historic moments like this so iconic, and builds an intimate narrative around it to make even more legendary.
The result is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema that appeals to not only the nostalgic and budding car enthusiast, but to the passionate. And at the end of the day, that’s something worth cheering about.
“Ford v Ferrari” is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 32 minutes. There are no post-credit scenes. Check out the trailer below:
Editor’s Note: “Ford v Ferrari” is released by 20th Century Fox, a Disney-owned film studio. Despite being an employee of The Walt Disney Company, this did not influence Korn’s review.