Ford v Ferrari feels like a throwback. It’s a blockbuster about cars, the American dream, and the men chasing it, but it’s also about sacrifice and the power of will. It’s one of the most well-acted and finely tuned films of the year, and one that shouldn’t be missed.
James Mangold, director of films like Walk the Line and Logan, directs another tale of American grit with this racing drama. He gives the film a lively pace, as well as plenty of heart. He clearly respects his characters and the history involved in this story. What you’re here for is the racing scenes, though, and Mangold absolutely delivers. This film has some of the most well-composed and pulse-pounding races ever put to film. He continues his directing hot streak here.
Ford v Ferrari tells the true story of Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles as they set out to defeat the dominant Ferrari racing team at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966 with a Ford car. This film hits all the traditional underdog plot points, but does so with a sense of style. It’s largely playful and kinetic, but knows when to present itself seriously, giving the whole affair some real stakes as well as plenty of fun. It also has an incredibly powerful opening sequence that ties in nicely with an equally stirring finale.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Let’s talk about our leading men, as they’re the ones that people are here to see. Christian Bale gets to be more charismatic than he has been in years with a hugely entertaining turn as driver Ken Miles. Bale remains one of our best working actors due to his massive range, and this film taps into that. However, Matt Damon really stole the show for me as the enigmatic Caroll Shelby. Damon is the best he’s been in years here, delivering a performance full of confidence, charisma, and hints of real pain. It’s easily one of my favorite performances of the year. Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, and Noah Jupe also do great work here, rounding out a stellar cast.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score has its time to shine, but a racing film lives and dies by its sound design, and it is brilliant here. There is a scene where the engines of the cars driven by Bale’s Ken Miles and his competitor build off one another until they reach a fever pitch that is nothing short of masterful. This film sounds fantastic.
Like most period pieces, this movie nails the sights and sounds of its setting. America in the 1960’s is having a big year with movies like Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, and this film does it justice. The sights, sounds, and cars of this era are lovingly recreated, and I never once felt out of place.
There is definitely an argument to be made that Ford v Ferrari is a “dad movie.” It’s all about America, masculinity, and fast cars, but don’t let that discourage you. This is a thoroughly exciting film about willpower and sacrifice featuring some of the most exciting and visceral onscreen action you’ll see all year. Sit down, buckle up, and prepare for one of the most thrilling films of the year.