Ford V Ferarri

     I have serious questions about the critical reactions coming from the Telluride Film Festival. Numerous times recently critics there, who got the first crack at some of the most anticipated fall season films, oversold expectations. All that to say that James Mangold is the kind of director you can usually count on. His films “Walk the Line,” “Girl Interrupted” and “Logan” all made their marks on past awards seasons. “Ford v Ferrari” is in many ways the quintessential ‘America First’ story. The Ford dudes lie, steal and trick the foreign competition for a win. The surprises here are the emotionless family dynamic which Mangold mastered so well with “3:10 To Yuma.” There is a lot more talking than racing. The screenplay has a structure quite similar to “Seabiscuit” but never rises to the level of articulation or integrity of the earlier film.

     “James Bond does not drive a Ford,” that’s Lee Lacocca’s pitch to Henry Ford II (Letts) to get the American motor company headed in a different direction. When Ford tries to buy the suffering Ferrari they are handed their hat, and the Italian sports car company merges with Fiat instead. Ford now has a reason to compete and brings on hot-head American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his faithful driver Ken Miles (Bale). Shelby comes up with the ideas and Miles perfects and races them. But the Ford guys, especially second in command Leo Beebe don’t want Miles as the face of their new venture. His social status and accent isn’t their style. In order to outsmart and outrace Ferrari at the 24 Hour Le Mans race in 1966, it will take an entire team working as one to prove to the world that America can go faster.

"“Wait for it,” Shelby keeps saying.... We keep waiting for whatever “it” is and it never comes."

     The story is mostly told from Miles perspective, he is the after all the honest racing hero. He has some anger and social issues, thanks to his time in combat during World War II. This was alluded to subtly, by his wife gently touching a black and white photo of him in service uniform to explain this. It’s true we are not promised a racing film, but two-third of “Ford v Ferrari” is an argument between the guys designing and racing the cars and with the guys in suits who run Ford. When we finally do get to the racing it’s not the thrilling race sequences seen in “Rush.” In fact, nothing about this film holds a candle to the Ron Howard racing film. The “Seabiscuit” structure comes in as we watch a civil racing competition, become international racing war, ending with a similar “slow down to catch up” solution. The “Seabiscuit” script found a way to make that historical event about three broken men who became better humans because of their collaboration. “Ford v Ferrari” is only about greed, and wanting to be first for bragging rights.

     One of the picture’s more pleasurable moments occurs when Bale punches Damon in the face, momentarily halting his obnoxious gum-chewing. Neither Damon nor Bale have award-worthy roles here, both having played some facet of these characters before. “Wait for it,” Shelby keeps saying while watching his driver take turns like no one else. We keep waiting for whatever “it” is and it never comes. “Ford v Ferrari” gets stuck in the same gear and spins wildly out of control. The sound effects during the racing are exciting elements for sure and the practical visual effects are so good you can’t spot them. If a sense of pride is what we are supposed to feel, then it’s a failure. After a string of award-winning films, including “Logan,” Mangold misses the mark with his latest slice of Americana.

Final Thought

"James Mangold’s talky American racing film sputters off track and bores the audience in the process."


10 thoughts on “Ford V Ferarri”

    1. All the back and forth dialogue of Ford, who is both the good guys and the bad guys fighting for greed and the chance to boast they are number one by cheating and tricking the competition. I was bored by the character development that presented the characters as one sided never diving into their history or motivations. On the race track we are at least interested in things moving fast and loud sound, but off the track it’s just these boring straight white guys competing against themselves.

      1. What is truly boring, is this “woke” crowd that can’t appreciate anything that doesn’t involve lgbt+++++ multi-culti driven abracadabra on the screen.

    1. The entire film is about greed, Ford (America)’s greed. No for Miles, it’s not as much about Greed, but I would argue for Shelby, bragging rights proving himself right, ultimately he was paid for his work, putting money where his mouth was. He was even willing to stoop down to what I interpreted as ruthless practices against Ferrari just so American can win, what kind of message does that send? Win, no matter what the cost to integrity? Cathy, it’s perfectly fine for us to both watch a film and interpret it different ways, that’s the beauty of cinema. However, I am far… far from the only film critic who felt the film sends a poor message, some of them you can find on Rotten Tomatoes, and elsewhere on twitter. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ford_v_ferrari/reviews?sort=rotten

      Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

  1. I think the review hits on some good points especially about the Shelby and Ford lying,stealing and tricking the competition for a win. For racing movie it was quite lethargic at many moments with more talking than driving with race sequences that weren’t that thrilling or exciting. Mangold seems to know how to squeeze a two hour movie into three hours. What kind of took me aback was how jingoistic the film was and the wildly racist portrayal of Italy, Enzo Ferrari and his racing team. The pit crew resembled bumbling opera buffa characters(yet somehow won 5 straight Le Mans) and the race drivers looked like Bond henchmen. It kind of left a bit of a bitter taste on leaving the cinema.

  2. Dustin, I felt the same way about a lot of your review. I enjoyed the film. I thought it had some poignant moments that were emotionally gripping, especially between Miles and his son and it did what a “Hollywood” film is supposed to do: entertain. I also am the kind of viewer of film who doesn’t mind a lot of dialogue. I don’t find “talky” films boring. But I appreciated that you pointed out the dialogue was boring, to you, because of the focus on “winning” in the capitalistic sense — in terms of the greed, hubris and pride of Ford the Second. It was hard to deny the jingoism and the rah-rah-rah corporatism of the Ford team. Even though I enjoyed it enough and felt entertained, I wouldn’t recommend it –especially to any of my female friends. One… one female character?!?! I can see the screenwriter’s sitting around a table discussing how to make their one female character seem “strong”. “Oh, we know what we need to do. We’ll put her in a station wagon with a professional race car driver and we’ll have her recklessly drive like a maniac on an open road filled with civilians while her… professional race car driver husband, who is not afraid of fast moving cars sits in the driver’s side, panicking at the way she’s driving, while she yells at him like a lunatic about… the thing she wanted him to do in the first place. But, she just doesn’t want him to lie about it. Yeah, that would never happen. And, it does the opposite of making the one female character of note in this “bro-fest” come across as a powerful woman. It’s a contrived scene written by a committee of screenwriters who needed to give the one female in the film something “interesting” to do. Mind you, I still actually found that scene entertaining. Which is how I felt about the film… it was entertaining, and the acting was top-notch and the screenwriting, though contrived and very “Hollywood”, was clearly in the hands of screenwriters who know how to spin a yarn and deliver all the beats and “Save the Cat” moments that Hollywood execs are looking for. So, this one is weird for me because while I actually enjoyed the film, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, nor give it a thumbs up review. But I wouldn’t give it a thumbs down either, probably because I find Christian Bale and Matt Damon’s acting always interesting, even in films that aren’t so much. I think “C” is the perfect grade for the film.

    1. You really nailed your explanation of that scene with Mollie Miles (Caitriona Balfe). I agree, it’s a misguided scene that doesn’t understand what it’s actually trying to say, and even worse, what they are actually saying. I wish I was at least entertained, but I was bored with the entire thing. I too really enjoy Bale and Letts in most films, and I have always enjoyed Mangold’s work, even when he doesn’t always get it right. The sentiment FvF gives off however, just put a really bad taste in my mouth.

      Thanks for your objective and spot on comment. Really appreciative you stopping by. Have a great week.

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