In “Ford v Ferrari”, The Audience Is The Winner

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In “Ford v Ferrari”, The Audience Is The Winner

Sebastian Hunt, The Forum's Head Writer of Film & TV

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★★★★

How much of a miracle was Ford’s triumph over Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans? Clearly a huge one, otherwise there wouldn’t be a film about it. But I’d argue that it doesn’t compare to another, more recent miracle: that I enjoyed Ford v Ferrari as much as I did.

Although I have slim-to-no working knowledge of the events depicted nor much of an interest in cars, Ford v Ferrari is perhaps the single most entertaining film I’ve seen all year. Ford v Ferrari might not be the outright best film of the year thus far (though it comes screechingly close), but it is possibly the most fun. An accelerating, well-oiled racing car of a film; Ford v Ferrari is a film I urge you not to miss.

The plot mostly concerns the buildup to the ‘66 Le Mans, a day-long race in which automobile brands select their greatest drivers and cars to compete for first prize. After a failed merger with Ferrari, Ford head Henry Ford II (played by Tracy Letts) commissions a new vehicle to be built – one that will hopefully best their new rival in Le Mans. Industry legend Caroll Shelby is enlisted for the task, with talented-but-problematic racecar driver Ken Miles alongside him. Together, the two collaborate on the proposed vehicle, eventually making racing history.

Matt Damon and Christain Bale portray Shelby and Miles respectively. Both actors are enormously enjoyable, particularly when paired together. Anchoring their performances is a razor-sharp screenplay with cutting dialogue. More than anything else, it is this dialogue that drives the film. True, the racing scenes are fun (more on that in a moment), but the film kicks into high gear only when its characters are allowed their snappy, quick-witted exchanges.

The racing bits are astoundingly well-executed. In addition to striking the right balance between fun and intense, they’re very well shot and directed. Director James Mangold has truly outdone himself, delivering one of the best sports film climaxes of recent memory.

If there’s anything barring Ford v Ferrari from being a genre-defining classic, it’s the occasionally disjointed pacing. After reaching what appears to be the finish line, Ford v Ferrari wheels on, trying its narrative engine. It is a real shame considering Ford v Ferrari’s comparative leaness; it blemishes an otherwise polished product.

Weighted with the film’s strengths, however, the tacked-on ending is a fairly minor issue. Ford v Ferrari is a racing, roaring ride of a film that I’d absolutely recommend to gearheads and non-gearheads alike.

 

Ratings Key:

★ – Bad (e.g., Godzilla ‘98, Pixels, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Justice League

★★ – Mediocre (e.g., Incredibles 2, Watchmen, Alice in Wonderland, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle)

★★★ – Good (e.g., Creed II, Batman, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Pretty In Pink, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)

★★★★ – Great (e.g., Jurassic Park, The Empire Strikes Back, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Social Network)

★★★★★ – Amazing (e.g., Dr. Strangelove, The Terminator, The Dark Knight, Back to the Future, Skyfall)

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