It’s the Italians vs. the Americans and the Americans (and a Brit) vs. each other in Ford v Ferrari, a fascinating and riveting biopic of how the Ford Motor Company took on Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1966.
The true story is the stuff of legend. Ford, after a failed (and humiliating) attempt to buy Ferrari in the mid-1960s, decided to take them down on their own turf by building a race car to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race held annually in Le Mans, France. Ferrari had long dominated the European racing scene, so it was rather audacious that an American car company would come in and try to compete.
The film is mostly focused on the relationship between team manager Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and driver Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale. The Ford management team hired maverick race car driver and renowned sports car designer Carroll Shelby to lead the racing team. Shelby also had the distinct accomplishment of winning at Le Mans in 1959, driving for British manufacturer Aston Martin.
For the driving team, Shelby was an advocate for English sports car engineer and driver Ken Miles. Miles, who had a reputation of being “difficult,” also had the skills to get the job done better than anyone, at least in the eyes of Carroll Shelby. Shelby’s and Miles’ rocky relationship gets explored in the film as well as the constant challenges the two of them faced dealing with the brass at the Ford Motor Company who were unconvinced that the brash Miles was a good fit for the team, not to mention the Ford image and brand.
The real highlight of Ford v Ferrari (which takes up most of the film’s third act; although the entire film is terrific) is the dramatization of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race where Ford and Ferrari battle it out for dominance on the race track. It’s also where the Ford management team and Carroll Shelby continue to battle it out in the pits for how to manage the car and its drivers, and where Ken Miles has to make some pretty important decisions while “going like hell” to win the race.
Director James Mangold and his team are to be commended for creating one of the best automobile racing movies ever. The cinematography, editing, and sound are outstanding. And both Matt Damon and Christian Bale turn in Oscar-worthy performances as two friends who have to overcome a serious amount of obstacles to pull off one of the craziest and boldest racing victories ever.
Ford v Ferrari is pure adrenaline from start to finish. I can’t recommend this film highly entertaining film highly enough.
Ford v Ferrari is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “some language and peril.”
My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
And see this film in IMAX if at all possible. The picture and sound in my screening were tremendous.