“Ford v Ferrari” Is A High Octane Crowd Pleaser

The thrill of driving a car at high speeds is one that many share. At the same time, the sport of auto racing is hard to compelling depict on screen. Car chases are a cinematic staple, but that’s a completely different beast. More often than not, racing movies focus as much on the humans as the machines. In the case of the new film Ford v Ferrari, there’s a strong balance between the two elements. Featuring some incredible technical work below the line, as well as a surprising sense of fun, this flick has more to offer than most other outings of this ilk. I’ve been pondering this one for over a month, hence waiting until the day of release to write about it, but the more I think on it, the more I find myself liking it.

The film is a sports drama, centered on a seminal moment in not just the history of racing, but of auto companies/car manufacturing as well. It’s also a deeply human story. We start off by meeting current car designer/salesman and former racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon). No longer able to compete, there’s a competitive hole in his soul. When the Ford Motor Company is embarrassed in an attempt to buy Ferrari, the auto giant, led by Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), approaches him to build a new kind race car for them to challenge the Italian legend at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans competition. To do this, he’ll need a special team, one headed by talented but difficult driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). While executive Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) supports the endeavor, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) does not, immediately butting heads with Miles. Through it all, Carroll and Ken battle the corporate interference, as well as long technical odds, in order to make this revolutionary car. James Mangold directs a screenplay by Jed Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Caitriona Balfe, JJ Feild, Remo Girone, Noah Jupe, Ray McKinnon, and more. Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders composed the score, while cinematography is by Phedon Papamichael.

There’s a lot to like here about this movie. However, it has a few small issues preventing it from being one of 2019’s top titles. The plot itself is compelling, though admittedly a little long and drawn out. The middle section drags, with too many sequences of Lucas’ Ford executive trying to find ways to kick Ken Miles off of the team. It lends to solid moments for Bale and Damon, but a little bit goes a long way. However, once we get to Le Mans, the intensity kicks into high gear and the pacing really picks up. With a faster (no pun intended) middle section, it truly would have been a rave worthy film. Still, it’s a damn good one, regardless.

Ford v Ferrari is a flawless technical achievement, helping to elevate a solid flick to a truly high level. In particular, the sound design is some of the year’s best. That aspect, as well as certain other tech fields, appear like the movie’s best chance at Academy Award attention. Oscar nominations in Best Picture, Best Director (for Mangold), and Best Actor (for Bale) are not out of the question, but they need below the line fields like Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score to come through first. More likely, a few fields like Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing will be where the Academy chooses to recognize this one.

As of last night, Ford v Ferrari has opened nationally in cinemas, giving audiences a high octane crowd pleaser. The film has its heavier moments, but largely, this is a fun burst of adrenaline and excitement. While it may not feel as prestige-laden as a number of the other contenders for awards this year, it’s likely to emerge as one of the more enjoyable titles in the field. Give it a look and you’ll almost certainly like what you find…

Be sure to check out Ford v Ferrari, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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