Principal Cast : Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, Jack McMullen, Corrado Invernizzi, Tanner Foust, Brent Pontin, Benjamin Rigby, Francesco Bauco, Joe Williamson, Christopher Darga, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ben Collins, Alex Gurney, Marisa Petroro, Giovanni Cirfiera.
Synopsis: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference and the laws of physics to build a revolutionary race car for Ford in order to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.


A bone-fide instant classic, James Mangold’s thunderous biopic around car designer Carroll Shelby and racing driver Ken Miles will entertain petrolheads and enthusiasts with ease, while also maintaining plenty of dramatic heft for the casual viewer. With a stellar cast led by a terrific Matt Damon and Christian Bale, both perfectly cast as the irascible Shelby and dogged Miles respectively, Ford V Ferrari is a dynamic, frantic, emotionally resonant journey back in time as Americans suddenly discovered a hitherto unknown passion for one of the world’s most prestigious car races, the Le Mans 24hr.

Set in the mid-1960s, the story kicks off with the Ford Motor Company facing a significant slump in sales and struggling to connect with the younger generation. Determined to revitalize the brand’s image, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) sets his sights on competing in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. To achieve this ambitious goal, Ford recruits the help of Carroll Shelby ( Matt Damon), a former race car driver turned skilled automotive designer and engineer. Shelby, known for his expertise in building high-performance cars, agrees to take on the challenge but insists on having full control over the project. He recruits the talented but hot-headed British racing driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to help develop and test the car. As Shelby and Miles dive into the project, they face numerous obstacles, including resistance from within Ford’s corporate structure. Executives like Leo Beebe (played by Josh Lucas) doubt Shelby’s unconventional methods and clash with him over the direction of the project. Despite the internal politics, Shelby and Miles forge ahead, pushing the boundaries of automotive engineering to create a revolutionary racing machine: the Ford GT40.

Ford V Ferrari is a terrific film. A genuine “pulled from the headlines” story of jealousy that provoked the creation of a classic American racecar, Henry Ford II’s insistence that Ford beat an international icon like Ferrari at its own game is a plot so simple and so wonderfully American, the genetic foundation of the Star Spangled Banner seems to seep from every frame. As a film it’s a world-beater, a sporting movie that has the ups and downs of Shelby and Miles’ lives portrayed through considerably compacted timeframes (there’s a lot of condensing of time here) and director James Mangold deftly weaves in both the primary story – that of the development of the GT40 and the eventual race at Le Mans – with a sweet little secondary one, the relationship between Miles, his son Peter (Noah Jupe) and supportive wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe), and how his hot-headedness and terrible business sense put a strain on their family. One might argue here that Matt Damon’s Shelby is the dramatic primary lead but Bale’s Ken Miles is the heartbeat. From a fantastic screenplay by Jason Keller reworking an original script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, and based loosely on the AJ Baime book “Go Like Hell”, Ford V Ferrari is a fast-paced, yet emotionally resonant story of family and friendship, and ultimately, faith.

As you might expect, Ford V Ferrari is indulgent with car racing sequences; notably the final third of the film is primarily used to depict Ken Miles’ famous drive at the 1966 Le Mans and it is a broadly satisfying replication of racing before pesky things like “driver safety” and “fatigue” became fancy catchwords of the corporate class, although the movie has a staggering amount of terrifying, exciting, thrilling car action mixed around the dramatic human elements of conflict and angst. Shelby’s continued love-hate relationship with the Ford Motor Company, personified by Josh Lucas’ snakelike Leo Beebe as the main antagonist, remains the subject of many a car-enthusiast discussion even to this day, and with Matt Damon and a bullish Tracy Letts sparring wonderfully this animosity to create a legacy forms the foundation of the film’s emotional core. Victory through mutual acceptance might not seem like a valid story hook but for this one it works. Mangold turns the car action into pulse-pounding and widescreen spectacle of the highest order, a mixture of practical and computer generated effects going a long way to really seat the viewer inside each car and race as it progresses, and at times I found myself gripping my armrest with excitement. The film’s climactic Le Mans is really strong in keeping the action and story progression moving along; many filmmakers halt the momentum of the human story for an extravagant VFX bonanza to keep audiences awake but often to the detriment of the film overall, not so with Mangold who, as it goes along, somehow ratchets up the adrenaline.

Of course a massive ensemble biopic like this would be nothing without some solid casting, and Mangold absolutely nails it here. Damon and Bale inhabit and reflect their real-world counterparts on-screen superbly – how Damon never found an Oscar nomination coming his way for this I’ll never understand – and the supporting roster, from Tracy Letts, a great Noah Jupe, Jon Bernthal, Ray McKinnon, Tanner Foust, Jonathan Lapaglia, and JJ Feild all deliver some terrific characterisations. Caitiriona Balfe, as Ken Miles’ wife, is perhaps the least accessible within the ensemble but I put this down to the writing trying to push her into the limelight rather on the periphery and not quite managing to find the right balance. The actress herself, however, is great.

The only real criticism I would have is that the film does run a touch too long. At two and a half hours, and despite loving everything in the film individually, it becomes apparent that Mangold is trying to not cut a thing out and that hurts the finished product. I’m not quite sure which subplot or scenes might have been best served being removed or compacted, but there’s a solid two-hour film in here easily that would perhaps be far more palatable to the bladder. I don’t think the film could sustain my interest over the full runtime on repeat viewings; some scenes do go on a bit long here and there, but the overall impact remains a powerful, satisfying sports flick that delivers requisite euphoria, sadness, amazement and laughs (the film is quite funny, in terms of the drama, not anything being particularly jokey) to make it a legitimate Best Picture contender. As a fascinating story (perhaps moreso for car fans than casual viewers) this is one hell of a great piece of entertainment and one I can heartily recommend, led by a terrific Matt Damon and irascible Christian Bale in fine form. Solid recommend.

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