By Alan Yudman
I think I have a problem. Every time I see a movie where cars are driven fast, I leave the theater driving as if I was behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car and I’m in Monte Carlo. No one tell the police. The truly talented get to live out those dreams. Those are the characters that populate the fast-moving FORD V FERRARI.
This is also a story of American exceptionalism, how the dream of being the best can be silenced for a time but can never truly be killed. It may be hard to believe that a millionaire industrialist like Henry Ford II can be an underdog. While his car company was a success, his desire to be better drove him toward racing. When he was insulted by Enzo Ferrari, that was all the motivation he needed to put his money into what many believed was a fool’s errand—trying to beat Ferrari’s legendary race team at Le Mans
FORD V FERRARI is also a story of American bootstrapping. Carroll Shelby was a legendary race driver who was forced to retire because of health issues. He turned his love of cars into Shelby American the custom car company that gave the world the Shelby Cobra, a light and powerful car that is way to fast for its own good. He teamed with rambunctious British driver Ken Miles to win several Sports Car Club of America races. Miles was a war hero who put his dreams aside for country and then for family.
These three men Ford, Shelby and Miles were snubbed and laughed at. No one thought they could do what they did. But through ingenuity, determination and talent they were able to pull off one of the greatest upsets in racing history. Compelling stuff for a film.
The performances are absolutely great. Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby is the ultimate salesman and innovator with just a touch of melancholly. Christian Bale embodies Ken Miles’ personality… he doesn’t care who he offends when he expresses his opinion. Mainly because he knows he is right and that’s not bravado if you are. Tracy Letts is great as the arrogant Ford. Lee Iaccoca was the ultimate car salesman, an attitude Jon Bernthal captures perfectly In his performance.
The script is fairly straight forward. Jason Keller and John-Henry & Jez Butterworth don’t put many frills on this. There is drama and humor. What I know of the story, they seem to get right. The characterizations seem flawless. James Mangold’s direction is great. There is a lot of actual stunt driving. There doesn’t appear to be much CGI here. Bale and the others really sell the on the edge driving and how dangerous it is.
So this is a great movie, right? Well, I’d say it is very good. The driving sequences are extraordinarily well done. There is emotion but it fell a little flat for me. Maybe I knew too much about the story going in. But it didn’t get me pumped for the triumphant finish (I won’t comment on the coda for fear of spoiling it). There’s nothing wrong with a very good movie that is executed flawlessly. But I was hoping to have my heart race like a Ford GT40 at Le Mans, and I wound up feeling more like a Toyota Camry driving a few miles over the speed limit on the freeway.