Ford v Ferarri is thrilling, energetic, funny, heartwarming, and everything that you would expect from one of the best movies of the entire year.
Director: James Mangold
Summary: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
There are a lot of things that make Ford v Ferarri great but there are also some hurdles it will need to jump over to convince people that they should go see it on the biggest screen possible. The biggest is the subject matter. The first instinct of anyone who doesn't like racing is that they aren't going to like a movie about racing. This is far from the truth when it comes to sports movies. Plenty of people that didn't like boxing went to go see Rocky and enjoyed it. The fact of the matter is that while racing is a huge part of Ford v Ferarri it is just as much a character study about two men trying to accomplish something great. In this case, it's designing a car to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. This is about people having to jump through hoops and doing whatever it takes to make their dreams become a reality. It's a story that we've seen plenty of times but the execution is the thing that elevates Ford v Ferarri from good to great.
A lot of credit must be given to the two leads; Matt Damon as car designer and former racer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. If we're pitting the two performances against each other it is Bale that walks away with the entire movie. Miles is an asshole, for lack of a better term, but Bale manages to walk that line of being an asshole while remaining likable and more importantly human. Bale has always been an amazing actor but he once again goes for broke with this performance in a way that only he can.
While Bale has the flashy role its Damon who has the quieter one. He plays Shelby as a man who knows right off of the bat that what he's doing is not only insane but probably won't work. There is a quiet confidence to him with country bumpkin accent as he quietly outmaneuvers everyone who tries to get in his way. Damon has to fight against the way Bale chews on the scenery but the moments where they get to play off of each other are genius. They snipe and fight as Shelby over and over tries to convince people who have no idea what they are talking about that Ken Miles is the man to drive the 24 Hours at Le Mans.
This is really a two-man show but there are some great supporting performances in here. One of the best is Caitriona Balfe as the wife of Miles, Mollie. Balfe walks that line of being long-suffering while also not putting up with an ounce of the man she married. Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, and Tracy Letts are all great as varying levels of higher-ups at Ford with Lucas being the stand out of the three.
Director James Mangold can make a great movie, this is a fact if you look at his filmography, but shooting races is a whole different ball game and one that Mangold does brilliantly. He makes sure to capture all of the tension by focusing less on the placement in the races and more on the people and the cars. We aren't just spectators watching cars we are watching the drivers and the people in the pit just as much. It means that it's always interesting and it's incredibly tense. Ford v Ferarri isn't a short movie either at just over 2 hours and 30 minutes but every moment flies by. There isn't any fluff and you can tell that each moment we are watching on screen from the beginning to the end is important.
Ford v Ferarri is one of the rare perfect films of 2019. There might be a few nitpicks things you could find if you spent time looking for them but they are so insignificant that they don't matter. Mangold and his cast are here to take you on a journey where even if you know what happens at the end of this true story you're still sitting on the edge of your seat.