Ford v Ferrari, written by the Butterworth Brothers and Jason Keller and directed by James Mangold, tells the true story of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) as they navigate through corporate disturbance, natural science, and their own restraints to try and win the Le Mans ’66.
This is not an average sports film. It’s not an underdog story. Ford v Ferrari is arguably the most one-of-a-kind sports movie made to date. It shows us a world where everything will stop you from pursuing your passion, but you have to follow it no matter what. What the film does so brilliantly is present a simple story, but everything little element is so strong and fleshed out that it feels like far more than that. It drives (sorry) the theme of ‘passion over glory’ home in a very subtle manner. In fact, the attitude of the whole movie seriously condemns glory and tells us to be satisfied with things that enthuse us.
The final message is quite layered and might seem bittersweet, but the film doesn’t treat it that way. The script is able to perfectly balance human drama and riveting action scenes and interweave those to make the whole experience that much more satisfying. Scenes have this level of realism to them, obviously stemming from it being a real story, yet the writing is so impeccable that the drama comes through ingeniously. Not one scene uses melodrama to push its point further. It all comes through with clear-cut conflict, an apt level of grit and really entertaining dialogue.
The movie focuses heavily on the interest in cars and racing shared by the main characters, and so it achieves a clear focus and refuses to waiver from it, which makes the experience seamless. It’s 2 hours 30 min runtime doesn’t even come close to feeling like that much. It also knows not to take itself too seriously so that regular scenes have a more entertaining tone and, relatively, scenes that need more of an impact are able to accomplish it. It is able to please any type of audience member; those who just want to experience high-octane action and those who want to feel a story play out, which is what the best movies are able to accomplish.
Ford v Ferrari is filled with fantastic characters. Carroll Shelby is a former race-car driver who is forced to retire due to an injury, but his passion for racing hasn’t diminished. Ken Miles is a professional race-car driver and mechanic who is struggling to provide for his family. The chemistry of these two drives (sorry again) the movie. Their motives for and obsession with racing are so strong it makes them likable as hell and we sincerely root for them. They do so many ‘illegal’ things, yet we never hinder from being on their side. Shelby and Miles always treat the cars, not like machines, but their own entity.
They represent the passion of the film, as stated earlier, while Leo Bebe (Josh Lucas) represents the ‘glory’ side of things. He is a scheming rep from Ford who only wants to make his boss happy for personal gain and will do anything to make that happen. This brings me to the performances. Everyone is perfect. Moving on, all the arcs enforce passion. Carroll realizes he needs to make decisions according to what he wants rather than what is told to him. Miles and his son majorly bond over said passion. And Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) is constantly on our protagonists’ side even though he works for Ford, enforcing the idea that true passion can even exist in the heart of glory.
James Mangold’s direction is flawless. As mentioned, the tone he approaches Ford v Ferrari which gives it its unique feel. He is able to make us feel the weight of the situation, yet entertain us constantly, so it works. Everything about the tone comes from the character’s reactions, not the other way around. The editing is pristine. The action scenes obviously stand out. They’re excellently paced to the point where just like the rest of the runtime they don’t feel nearly as long as they are. Even the non-action scenes feel like the editor is in control of what’s happening. Just the right emotions are brought out at the right times, even during action sequences. It’s unique as there are so many cuts to keep the action high octane yet you’re so engrossed you barely notice it.
They play out longer than normal sports movies would allow them to (even though they don’t feel like it), so their weight can be soaked up by viewers. Definitely deserved the Oscar. The sound is also extremely well done. It bridges entire scenes in a manner where the revs of the engines get you going. Even after the film ends, it keeps your heart racing (sorry, last one). The score is very underrated. It enforces the tone of the movie; not too serious yet makes you feel the weight. A ton of it is actually quite soft, which is different for a sports movie about racing. But that’s what builds the dramatic element which is what makes the film so great.
Ford v Ferrari is far more than a sports movie about cars and racing and underdogs. Its focus on characters and telling a story really push it to be a rare film. It’s this focus that makes all the exciting stuff work in the first place. Every element is flawless and seamlessly creates an experience that is memorable and lovable. As stated before, it can please any type of viewer which means this is a must-watch for everyone.
I’m a film student who wants to talk about movies. Currently specializing in film editing. Huge fan of Edgar Wright, Ricky Gervais, and comedy in general.