Arts & Leisure

Movie review: Ford v. Ferrari

Christian Bale in “Ford v Ferrari” (2019)

Ford v Ferrari — Running Time: 2:32 — Rating: PG-13
If you avoided seeing “Ford v Ferrari” because you aren’t interested in car racing, you might just reconsider. Why did I avoid it? Car racing and all-male casts have never drawn my interest. How could an audience be held in suspense for two and a half hours of men speeding around in circles to a deafening soundtrack? Yet finally, there I was in the movie, on that track, rooting for the good guys.
During a five-year sales slump at the Ford Motor company, designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) begins to wonder how to make the Ford badge stand for victory rather than loss. When he confronts Ford president Henry Ford II with the need for dramatic change — “You can’t win a race by committee,” Shelby lures Ford into a dramatic shift in the company culture.
When Shelby turns to driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the movie soars into high gear. It is Bale’s superb performance as a race-car lover that lifts both the movie and the audience into another world. His love of racing is driven by more than passion. It’s obsession. Miles, a good human being, becomes a man driven by this in a way few of us have ever seen or felt. His is a superb passage from determination to success. Bale’s creation of this character is sublime.
As we watch this driver, we learn he has an astonishingly fine wife, Mollie (Caitriona Balfe), and a young son Peter (Noah Jupe) who is already in love with racing. In their touching performances, these actors create a family of three who audiences come to love. Though their family story doesn’t dominate the film, they deliver a rare and beautiful portrait of a family where each supports the other. The beauty comes as we begin to understand the mutual love among the three in spite of the danger and preoccupation of the husband/father. It’s not ordinary to see family love as subtle as this.
This story explores men to their cores. Drivers are passionate competitors. Businessmen are successful bores like Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). Watch quiet, capable actor Matt Damon eat away at Henry Ford’s business personality as he lures him to the core of love for racing. Damon creates a tough, controlled ex-racer who infects Ford with the excitement of breaking all the rules of his business.
This is a cast that manages to take a theater that is bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. Writers/brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and director James Mangold have created a film that is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius and obsession. These details are given us with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to become a body moving through space and time at 7,000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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