In Ford v Ferrari, we chase the perfect lap
With its name at the top of the weekend’s box office, Ford v Ferrari is proof that original one-off movies still have a place in the for-profit industry of film. But with names like James Mangold (director of Logan, Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, American Psycho and The Machinist) and Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity, The Martian and Good Will Hunting) behind it, what else were we expecting, anyway?
Ford v Ferrari tries to capture the David and Goliath story that concluded at the 1966 battle of 24 Hours Of Le Mans, between—obviously—the Ford Motor Company and the race cars of Enzo Ferrari. Specifically, it touches on the bond between British racecar driver Ken Miles (Bale) and automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Damon). Together, the two attempt the impossible: defeat the overwhelming favorites while going against the Big Brother backing them up.
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Let’s get the obvious out of the way: James Mangold has a talent for making the technical and complicated understandable for the layman. The way that the race scenes are sequenced and shot are understandable and clear; there is no question about what is happening when. Just as well, the human interest aspect of the Ford v Ferrari (particularly the friendship between Miles and Shelby, as well as the relationship Miles has with his son) are sprinkled throughout the film enough to keep even the motor-averse interested.
Another thing that positively jumps out the big screen is the chemistry between Bale and Damon. Despite the successful franchises that these two have led, they are able to disappear into their characters. You are not reminded of Batman or Jason Bourne; there is only Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby—thus making the true story all the more realistic.
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So let’s talk about the storytelling, the overarching plot that has audiences cheering for Ford despite the history and sheer dominance of Ferrari. The narrative against Big Brother is twofold in the film: There is Ford against Ferrari and there is Miles/Shelby against the men in suits.
You have Ford, the underdog, going up against successful racing veterans, and it is thrilling to see what the engineers (and money) can do to change an accepted landscape. They discuss the ins and outs of cars—using terms and theories that sound like an alien tongue to someone like me—and debate about what goes and what stays, what needs an upgrade and whether or not it’s even possible. And in that moment at 24 Hours Of Le Mans, when an official tries to deny them of an innovation currently used by all names in the sport and they fight back with logic that’s so unquestionable, you cannot help but admire the genius behind it.
But, more than anything, the movie is about that one thing that we just cannot get by without doing: Miles and Shelby are the epitome of drive and passion and the inability to walk away from something that has buried itself deep inside you. Together, the two prove what can happen when people refuse to give less than their all. That isn’t to say, of course, that Miles and Shelby are without faults; there are moments that their defiance is downright frustrating—but it becomes clear that this defiance only exists to quench a thirst that is virtually unending.
It’s here that Ford v Ferrari truly shines and becomes relatable (and in some ways, even admirable): It is in the struggle that Miles experiences as he takes a step away from motor sports; it is in how Shelby goes face-to-face against the Big Brother that finances his dreams in order to give the industry (and its people) the respect that it so rightfully deserves.
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But whether or not the film depicts the sport in accuracy, I have no say. You’ll never see me driving along EDSA, let alone a track. But I did watch with someone a little familiar with the game and he had this to say: “[At least] they show the importance of the relationship [between] a driver and [an] engineer.”
Can’t win us all over, I guess?
Ford v Ferrari runs for more than two and a half hours, but it doesn’t feel that way. Sure, the introductory scenes feel a little long and dragged sometimes, but once you have enough background, it just keeps on going. And you’ll enjoy the ride; it might even be 2019’s perfect lap.
Art Alexandra Lara