THREE STARS Ford decide to take on the might of Ferrari. They've got 90 days to build a winning car and, well, win.
Matt Damon, Christian Bale
DRAMA ACTION #FORDVFERRARI
Inside this good film by James Mangold (THE WOLVERINE), is a truly startling one that got stuck halfway around the track. Everything they had to say, all of it interesting, some of it provocative, none of it boring, could have been said in an hour and fifty. Unfortunately we get taken on a serious number of victory laps that string events out to two hours thirty - stalling point. Racing and/or Ford enthusiasts (there are some) are no doubt happy to go for the ride, the rest of us are left looking to take a break at the pitstop.
Based somewhat faithfully on the events of Ken Miles (played with cor-blimey-geezer gusto by Christian Bale), here’s the story of Ford Motors who wanted a corporate makeover and found it at the Le Mans racing track. If they could beat Ferrari at their own game and win the coveted European crown, imagine what it would do for their image back home. They enlist racing hero Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) who in turn enlists Ken for his formidable technical clout; he could make it happen. With only ninety days to pull off the impossible - Ford, beat Ferrari?! - the clock was ticking.
Damon and Bale are the beating heart of this film and they command attention (though in fairness, when don’t they?). Together they dance across the screen with ample support from an array of on-screen talent who keep the movie revving in high gear. Sibling writers John-Henry and Jez Butterworth (SPECTRE) give them all plenty to work with: aside from the reality of a fascinating story, they populate it with a cast of fully-formed characters that are nothing if not engaging. Throw in the roaring spectacle of Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography (WALK THE LINE), and you’ve got a four star experience, right? Well…
Not quite. It’s important to reiterate that all the elements are in play for a startling film - actors, writers, director, cinematography, music, production, a terrific buddy story based on true events that calls on the best of popular culture and is given a fabulous, kick-arse, one-two ending. The disappointment is that by the time you get to the finale, and its coda, and the coda’s coda, you’re aching to get out of the confines of the racing car. Too much, too long, too ready to go home.
The irony is that Miles an Shelby spend half the film pulling cars apart, making them lighter, faster. Getting rid of the flab. If only Mangold had been paying attention, FORD V FERRARI would actually be the four star film it so very nearly is.