Damon and Bale race against the odds in this thrill-seeking biopic
I was just complaining about how boring the action sequences were in “Charlie’s Angels,” and as a critic, I expect to be entertained with both the action and the narrative that gives them meaning. “Ford v Ferrari” is based on the true story of how the Ford Motor Company managed to enter in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite the odds against Ferrari cars. The real challenge is how they would pull it off, and throughout every test run and every race, I was ultimately riveted by the energy and persistence.
Matt Damon stars as Carroll Shelby (1923-2012), who had to give up racing, because of his heart condition that could lead to a cardiac arrest, and Christian Bale is Ken Miles (1918-1966), a British WWII vet and driver with a knack for speed. Shelby continues design cars for Shelby Automobiles, while Ken’s auto shop goes out of business, and must provide for his wife (Caitriona Balfe) and son (Noah Jupe).
Then Ford’s executive Lee Oacocca (Jon Bernthal) proposes to the big man-Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts)-that they should merge with Enzo Ferrari’s (Remo Girone) business. When the deal doesn’t work out (because Enzo tells Lee Henry is just Henry Ford II), it’s all clear that they have to beat the company in the big race. Now, they need the right people for the right stuff.
Shelby and Miles both struggle to overcome the cynicisms of preparing a Ford race car to withstand any obstacle, but yet, they develop a friendship and a freaking fast car. Although, Miles’ attitude and need for speed does add some questions for the company.
Back to the racing. It ranks with some of the best driving movies. Every moment is all petal to the metal, as the odds struggle to get even, and manages to let the professionals learn from their mistakes. When you see them driving, you know you’re in for a Hell of a good time.
“Ford v Ferrari” was directed by James Mangold and written by Jason Keller and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. You can tell they developed a biopic full of energy, despite its 2 hour and 30 minute time frame. And they also are in love with the two main racers Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, both dangerously portrayed by Damon and Bale. Their chemistry never goes out of whack, and they have their own issues, which they manage to overcome. But really, it’s all about fighting against cynicism.
You also have some charming supporting work from Balfe who has a memorable way go getting her husband to explain his new position; Jupe having an impressive career (“Honey Boy,” “Wonder,” “A Quiet Place”); Letts delivering some brilliant material as Henry Ford II; and Josh Lucas kills it as his arrogant VP.
The story is not always understandable, maybe because of the British dialogue or big motor mouths, but you’re still able to grasp the concept. In fact, you’re rooting for the Ford Motor Company, and their best driver to win the 24 hour race.
Buckle up tight. You’re in for a great ride.