Ford v Ferrari (Mangold, 2019): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson.. Viewed as part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado.

Ford v Ferrari (titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and other destinations), directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), tells the story of two obsessive artists, Matt Damon as car designer, Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale as race car driver, Ken Miles, clashing and teaming up to build the world’s fastest race car after a verbal slight by Enzo Ferrari, owner of the then dominant Ferrari Formula One race car, towards Henry Ford II, proud Chairman of the Ford Motor Company.

The film, based on the book 24 Hours of Le Mans is driven almost exclusively by the powerful relationship dynamic of two strongly convicted characters who know how to win and have the will to do whatever it takes to do so – even going as far as paying the ultimate price for the love and exhilaration of the race car. Director Mangold skillfully manages the competing personalities not only of the film’s lead characters but also the egos and ambitions of the peripheral players from Ford as the managerial layers come to bear on the project.

Complete with a dizzying array of tightly-framed close-ups of Bales’ character, Miles, behind the wheel, the audience is treated to a smiling, charismatic professional race car driver as he handles and brings to fruition a winning racing machinery with grace and expertise with mesmerizing cinematography from Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska, Walk the Line). Meanwhile, Damon crushes his “good ‘ol boy” Shelby character, often cutting the Ford Motor Company executives off in mid-stream as his self-determination to make the world’s fastest car becomes an obsession.

One aspect of filmmaking often overlooked by moviegoers is the sound and the role it plays in augmenting the film’s emotional intent. With Ford v Ferrari, Sound Designer Ted Wilkinson, turns the onscreen car racing world into a virtual spin with an exceptional soundtrack putting the viewer into the driver’s seat of race car driving including several live pit stops in the heat of the LeMans ’66 racing competition.

And while Bale and Damon garner most of the screen time, four-time Golden Globe nominee, Caitrione Balfe (Outlander), keeps both lead characters in check as the boys wind up in fisticuffs as they struggle to make their shared dream a reality. In addition, Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) carries a load as Peter Miles, Ken Miles’ adoring son. Steady actor, Josh Lucas, delivers a strong performance as Leo Beebe, the Ford executive who, in trying to maintain a wholesome image for the motor company, almost single-handedly derails the project. Tracy Letts embodies the character of Henry Ford II in more than one memorable scene.

Ford v Ferrari has a fast run time of 152 minutes and is a family-friendly film produced by Chernin Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox (now owned by Disney). The release date is scheduled for November 15, 2019, putting the film right in the heart of the Oscar race. I highly recommend Ford v Ferrari be experienced with an advanced cinema sound system. You’ll be glad you did!


About this entry