By Nick Maylor
I’m not a car guy. Some folks love them the way I love guitars, obsessing on the automobile’s history, evolution and innovation. I dig flashy cars in movies but there’s only one car I’ve ever really cared; the Batmobile (which is, ironically, an unlimited number of different cars).
However, I am a fan of James Mangold, Matt Damon and Christian Bale. The latter once had a Batmobile.
Ford v. Ferrari tells the story of how the Ford Motor Company undertook a huge mission, to defeat Ferrari at racing. Matt Damon plays automotive Engineer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale stars as driver Ken Miles.
In 1963, Ford Motor Company attempts to buy out Enzo Ferrari’s company, including their racing program. The deal ultimately fails and Ferrari is purchased by Fiat.
Having taken the failed buyout personally, an invigorated Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) resolves to build a car that will outrace Ferrari.
Caroll Shelby approaches Ken Miles about the project and is initially laughed off but eventually Shelby convinces Miles to come on board.
Christian Bale quickly dropped the weight he gained playing Dick Cheney in Vice (2018) and looking familiar here is expectedly great and his blunt, no nonsense, English racer is another testament to how Bale is simply a great character actor. He’s got good chemistry with Damon who effortlessly affects a southern drawl and seems perfectly comfortable chewing gum and sassing anyone he seems necessary.
The two men share a mutual respect that is peppered with severe conflicts and challenges. They engage in fisticuffs and reminisce about having done so in the past, yet they are quick to let it all go.
Ken Miles is an interloper who is only there because Caroll Shelby knows he is the man needed to achieve the goal. Most of the Ford company views him as a nuisance and a liability.
Josh Lucas portrays Leo Beebe, an antagonistic buffer between Shelby’s operation and Henry Ford II. Lucas is fun to hate as he injects the development team’s world with bureaucratic speed bumps. Lucas is great at playing this type of character.
Tracy Letts is notably good as Henry Ford II, making the most of his sparse screen time.
Its ultimately quite formulaic and even for someone who knew nothing of the history, I encountered few surprises.
The marvels of engineering and scientific advancement are always good fodder for a story and that pursuit of better and faster is often infectious.
The film is two and a half hours long, perhaps longer than it needs to be, but the performances are good enough to prevent it from out staying its welcome.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is currently working on a book about the American Cinema Renaissance (1967-present) with John H. Foote. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor