Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby
Christian Bale as Ken Miles
Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca
Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles
Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II
Josh Lucas as Leo Beebe
Noah Jupe as Peter Miles
Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari
Ray McKinnon as Phil Remington
Director: James Mangold
American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
Ford v Ferrari was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. With director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) helming this and with a cast that included Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal and more, there was a lot of talented people involved. With that said, I wasn’t necessarily interesting in racing or race cars, so I wasn’t hyped because of the premise, but I was still interested for the talent involved in it. I actually liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would, what could’ve been a standard racing biopic is elevated immensely by the direction and the acting.
Just to preface this review, I’m not really interested in cars or racing or anything like that, nor did I have any prior knowledge of the real life events. Thankfully it’s still reasonably accessible to those people like me, you can still follow along with what’s going on without being too bored or confused. The first half of the movie is the whole creative process, and I think most of us can be interested in that if it’s handled well, whether fully understand everything that’s going on or not. The last third act for the most part is a massive racing sequence, and it’s quite a rewarding experience. In many ways, Ford v Ferrari is a standard biopic, and at times it definitely feels like it. However it was injected with quite a bit of humanity. While I’m aware that a lot of biopics also have those manufactured emotional moments placed to make the audience care a little bit about the characters, I think Ford v Ferrari does just enough for it to elevate it above most similar movies. Ford v Ferrari is rather long, it’s 2 hours and 30 minutes in fact. While the pacing is generally good and faster than you’d think it would be, I still feel like it could’ve been a little shorter. The early portions are fine but after the initial setup, that’s when the movie really picks up. A very small gripe but we don’t exactly get a sense about how much time has passed. We are told that they have 90 days to build the car but the way the movie progresses, it feels like it didn’t take more than a month.
The performances are really good, and Ford v Ferrari has quite a talented cast. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are great, and they share some convincing onscreen chemistry together. Bale particularly is great, and a real scene stealer throughout. You have some solid work from the supporting cast as well. Jon Bernthal is really good here, he’s a prominent supporting character, and thankfully gets far more screentime than he receives in most of his movies where he’d usually get up to 10 minutes max. Other actors like Josh Lucas and Tracy Letts also play their roles well.
So I said earlier about how Ford v Ferrari is really a standard biopic at its core, however a big reason why it worked so well was James Mangold’s direction. The movie is basically perfect for what it’s trying to be on a technical level. It’s a good looking movie, and they captured the time period and setting really well. And that’s even before I talk about the racing scenes, which you can probably tell are among the highlights of the movie. The racing scenes are engaging, tense and really gripping, it’s very well filmed and it really allows you to see everything and never becomes confusing. It seems that very little CGI was used. This movie cost just under $100 million and you can definitely feel it throughout, they seemed to have utilised that very well. The score by Marco Beltrami does well to helps raise the tension even further.
Ford v Ferrari may not reinvent the genre and you can probably guess 95% of the plot beats or the structure, but I can’t deny that I still had a good time watching it. What made it stand out so much was the performances (especially from Damon and Bale), but also James Mangold, who gives such humanity and energy to what could’ve just been a mediocre biopic at best, and making it something great. If you’re just looking for a racing movie with a bunch of racing tense driving scenes, the whole movie isn’t won’t be like that, but you’ll definitely get your fix here. If you’re like me and aren’t particularly interested in cars or racing, I’d still say that you can get invested in the movie and it’s well worth checking out.