In 1966, motorsports racing changed forever after two unlikely partners teamed up with the Ford Motor Company to achieve what the world thought to be impossible in terms of mechanical engineering, tactical international marketing strategy, and racing skill, to beat Ferrari at the twenty-four-hour international race in Le Mans. How did they do it? With one thing that money can’t buy, heart. These are men doing their life’s work for the love of the game, whether they win or lose.
Ford v Ferrari is not simply a story about who wins the big race at the end of a sports movie. It’s the story of two men who would’ve been rivals but teamed up against their greatest rival yet. They believed they were born to achieve greatness and refused to accept that winning was impossible.
Matt Damon plays the former racing titan Carroll Shelby, who became a race car designer after discovering he had a fatal heart condition that forced him into retirement. Rather than letting his aspirations for the future of racing die on the vine, he teamed up with Ford to build a car that could beat a Ferrari at the most famous race in the world. When Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and the visionary car executive Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) ask Shelby to source a driver for their new car, Shelby says the only man who can do it is Ken Miles (Christian Bale).
Start your engines with the film’s official trailer.
Miles is a working-class Brit with the attitude of a classic ballbuster, a trophy case that could choke an elephant, and a penchant for putting the ‘smart’ in smartass. Once Ken’s autobody shop is shut down by the IRS for financial troubles, his wife and adoring son worries about their future as a family. Ken takes a meeting with Shelby and gets to work.
This is the story of two men who didn’t let reality get in the way of their dreams of the future. They built their dreams with their own bare hands and managed to write themselves into the pages of history while doing it. This is a film that aims to inspire audiences to build their own legacy by doing what they love, because opportunities to change your life don’t happen every day.
Ford v Ferrari is premiere entertainment, sharply crafted storytelling, and filmmaking that is as fine-tuned as the immaculate machines that it features. It allows itself to be so much more than a red-blooded sports movie about egotistical men looking to hold a trophy over their heads; it’s not simply about cars, it focuses on the visionaries that made them and the soul that it takes to make your dreams come true.
Director James Mangold (Logan, Cop Land) puts the money from his Marvel movies to wonderful use here by ditching many typical racing genre conventions and not making what could’ve been an all-too-typical snoozefest. Mangold turns this movie into a deftly designed film, creating a marvellous story about hard work, guts, and vision by making it a tale regarding fathers and sons, husbands and wives, as well as friendship at the heart of it.
Watch the cast discuss shooting the film via Variety.
Damon delivers his best acting work since The Departed here and he’s entirely believable every second that he’s onscreen. He shows real dynamic range as a leading man again and reminds audiences that he didn’t get to be an A-Lister purely on his looks. Bale is also absolutely on fire and it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that he will rightfully get some love at the Oscars this year because, if there was a role to win him Best Actor, this could very well be it.
Tracy Letts injects some real heart into his role as Henry Ford II, a stonewalling captain of industry who refuses to forget about the imagination it took for his father to build this company. Jon Bernthal proves that he’s so much more than another tough guy as he showcases some truly suave and stylish acting chops front and centre with his awesome portrayal of the visionary Lee Lacocca.
If anyone is looking for thrilling adult fare that’s a true story about the driving force of determination, the true power of perseverance, and the brains to make your dreams come true, this is it. No one should be shocked when the Oscar nominations roll in for this one, plus, despite the fact this film isn’t part of any kind of franchise, it’s mature, it’s aimed at grown-ups, and it’s making major bucks at the box office.
What audiences should take away from this is that quality storytelling and profitability don’t need to be binary when it comes to filmmaking. Hell, they can even be harmonious when no one is backseat-driving a director with a real vision, and Ford v Ferrari is a fantastic testament to that.
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: November 15, 2019 (United States)
Run Time: 152 minutes
Get a sneak peek of Bale and Caitriona Balfe in this short scene.