by Kyle Arango
Listen, right off the top I am going to say that I know little to nothing about cars. I drive one, it brings me a ton of unwanted stress, but it gets me to my destination faster than walking would, so I put up with it. I know car people get judgy when people don’t know cars so I am warning you from the start. Ok so Ford v. Ferrari, will it help me learn more about cars? No not really, but it sure got m excited about them. Ford v. Ferrari takes a second to find its footing but once it does, it takes ahold of you and never lets go.
Ford v. Ferrari is the telling of the true story of the Ford motor company and their pursuit to create a car fast enough to beat Ferrari at the Les Mans race. They enlist the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to help design this car and he recruits his hot headed friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale), to drive and create the best chance at succeeding. My dad is a huge car guy so I had always known the name Carroll Shelby but was never aware of what his story was and I had never heard of Ken Miles. What a world this was to be thrown into. Director James Mangold puts you right in the middle of this setting and guides you along the way without holding your hand. Like I said, I didn’t really learn that much new about cars, the film really expects you to either know what their talking about or not. What it does do however is pick up a rapid pace that carries you to the finish line with an intriguing story and interesting characters. The first act may be a little boring and inconsistent pacing wise, but once the second act starts it is like a whole new film and I couldn’t get enough of it.
What was so fascinating about this story is what it chose to focus on. The film is called Ford v. Ferrari but really it is about the Ford side. Ferrari is more of the lingering cloud that hovers over the plot and only strikes down when necessary. Mangold gives you a view into just how competitive this company was and how they never wanted to settle. Ford was the highest in sales and made more cars then Ferrari could ever dream of, but the prestige always sided with Ferrari. Ford wanted to change that so what did they do? Decide to do whatever they can to beat them at the largest race in the world, a race Ferrari had dominated. I never felt lost within this story. I was always anticipating what came next. We can have an intimate character interaction at one moment and a thrilling race the next. Bottom line is you always wanted more and that is the hallmark of a good film. Mangold handles that beautifully.
Ford v. Ferrari is placed firmly on the shoulders of its two leads played by Matt Damon and Christian Bale. James Mangold is there to push them long the way, but it is the characters that carry the story and interest of the audience. We know what these guys are capable of, they are two of the best to ever do it, but they really shine in this film. Christian Bale has been known to be a chameleon and just transform himself into whatever character he is playing. He gets lost in all his roles and this is a new side from him that was welcome. A skinny tough guy with a temper that also might be the smartest guy in the room when it comes to cars. He is the one given the family moments and the levity he brings to both his wife and son grounds the film. Matt Damon however is the one who gets the edge for me. There is nothing bombastic about his performance. He never goes over the top yelling or anything, he instead brings a sense of passion and emotion to his character. Bale gets the loud moments, but Damon absolutely crushes the soft moments to where you cannot help but be impressed by what he is doing. It is so impressive how easy he makes relatable look as he does with most of his roles. There is a particular moment at the end with a child that really hits home the purpose of his character and everything he did with him.
Coming out of Ford v. Ferrari, I am shocked at how much it turned me around and pulled me in. The first act had me worried but there’s a moment early on that just hooks you and in the blink of an eye, this two-and-a-half-hour film is over. This is one of my favorite sports movies I have seen, and it got me interested in the history of racing and the competition between competing motor companies thanks to the efforts of Mangold, Damon, Bale, and everyone involved. This is a car lovers dream, and general audiences should leave thrilled as well.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars