Ford v Ferrari – Heart-Pumping But Lacking Heart

Ford v Ferrari is the story of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a former racecar driver turned designer who is presented with an incredible challenge on behalf of the Ford Motor Company—beat Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race the car manufacturing superpower has dominated for the past several years. To achieve this, Shelby enlists the help of Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a brash but brilliant engineer and racer to help craft an automobile capable of surpassing their Italian counterparts.

What works in Ford v Ferrari are the charismatic performances and the stunning recreations of the 24 Hours of Le Mans along with other racing sequences. Damon exudes charm and confidence as the wily Texan who knows how to read people and situations. His embodiment of Shelby is a man who knows when to negotiate, when to go all-in on himself, or when to bend the rules just a little bit to his advantage. Watching him negotiate the myriad of colorful characters like a conductor is delightful.

Bale, who has shown no shortage of range over his prolific career, gives audiences something a little bit different if not expected. His take on Miles is a bit joyous—yes, he has a temper as he seeks both perfection and fair adjudication when feeling slighted, but at his core is a person filled with joy and love for life, for family, and of course for completing that perfect lap on the race track. The energy is magnetic, and it becomes near impossible not to root for Miles as the hothead who make the executives at Ford just a wee bit nervous.

RELATED: Ford v Ferrari: Christian Bale Tears Up The Race Track In New Trailer

A particular strength of Ford v Ferrari is the intensity it evokes during the races. Director James Mangold (Logan) uses a blend of camera angles to give the audience the sensation of being in the middle of the action, and often times in the driver’s seat, but without feeling like one is on an out-of-control rollercoaster. The thrills are smooth, and that will undoubtedly keep audiences’ eyes wide open and likely induce a few gasps during the tensest moments. Of note too is the sound mixing and editing which are nearly pitch-perfect. The revved engines and squealing tires never overpower the sharp dialogue, so don’t be surprised if the sound team receives due recognition come awards season.

Audience members who prefer diversity and deep character development within films may not enjoy Ford v Ferrari as much as others. The chronicle of this tale is dominated by wealthy privileged white men. While this is historically accurate (as is the majority of the film), these may be characters that some people may find unrelatable. Furthermore, while Bale and Damon are nothing short of dynamic, very little attention is given to their backgrounds, motivations, philosophies, etc. They are fun individuals to spend some time with, but Ford v Ferrari provides little to no context on these men which leaves them colorful but without a whole lot of depth. A little more context and insight would have made Shelby and Miles feel a little more robust.

Ford v Ferrari is a rather thrilling and entertaining ride that will most likely engage audiences just given the electricity of racing sequences. While the film may not be particularly deep, Ford v Ferrari makes up for it in most places by keeping the adrenaline pumping.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Rush, The Art of Racing in the Rain

FINAL GRADE: A-

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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