I wanna go fast…
Ford vs. Ferrari is one of those unique movie experiences as while it can come across as a potential awards season contender it’s mostly just a fun historical romp about fast cars, the people who drive them and the companies that make build ‘em.
Visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
At its core; Ford vs. Ferrari is just a good old fashioned crowd pleaser of a movie that captures the soul of ambitious men being told that they can’t do the impossible and then subsequently watching them do it.
Director James Mangold continues his recent track record of making high gloss popcorn fare here with Ford vs. Ferrari as the production design is just top shelf. Yeah it’s a little bloated from top to bottom and a little more concerned with giving flash and style rather than some actual historical or emotional substance but Mangold isn’t giving us anything that is for a single solitary second; boring.
It’s a fun and sexy affair that romanticizes our pop culture love affair with fast cars while wrapping it up in a story about human ingenuity and the creative need for certain types of people to push the envelope as best they can in their given fields. It’s the philosophy of the male psyche as it tackles the universal debate of art vs. commerce and the need for genuine inspiration in any field in order to be truly successful at it.
The script plays a little too cookie cutter at times as we get the dissection of the alpha male psyche without getting into too many goofy buddy movie tropes. It’s a story of two truly obsessive men trying to be the best at something while playing inside a system that had historically told them to simply go away.
This easily could have been a glossy Hollywood bio pic that ended up just being hollow and empty but both Damon and Bale save it with natural charm oozing out of their eyes.
Neither man is really flexing any serious acting muscles at this stage but both have such innate skill at playing the put upon everyman that we get roped into watching them do what they do best. As the socially inept wild man driver Ken Miles, Bale really manages to chew the scenery of a man destined to be behind the wheel even at the ultimate cost. Damon shines as Carol Shelby, a man who’s been in Miles’ shoes and knows he needs to adapt to the turns in the road while still bringing the swagger and confidence that has brought him so much success in the first place.
It’s all essentially a big budget bromance between Damon and Bale with the likes of Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal & Caitriona Balfe bringing up the supporting cast and helping out where needed. It’s just all a lot of fun from top to bottom.
Sure the action on the track is what will get people into see Ford vs. Ferrari but it’s the incredibly relatable dynamic between Bale and Damon which not only drives the characters that they play but also the entertainment value of the entire picture. It’s not a film about the stakes in the story, but rather it’s a story of discover and inspiration in the face of all logic telling you otherwise…which is where some of the great moments of human history are born from.