If you love racing cars and good cinema, you cannot ignore the gripping sports and biographical epic of a movie like Ford v Ferrari from 2019.
In the 1960s, Ferrari was one of the most prestigious car companies in the world, best known for their dominance in European and U.S. racing, owing to their innovative cars and a fierce team of talented drivers.
On the other hand, achieving these successes cost Enzo Ferrari an enormous amount of money, bringing the company to the brink of bankruptcy.
At the same time, Ford was economically flourishing because of its strong presence in the American market with affordable cars such as the famous Falcon or Thunderbird models.
Wanting to expand into the sports car business, Ford attempted to acquire Ferrari, although Italian competitor FIAT of the Agnelli family beat them with a more appealing offer.
Deeply humiliated by Enzo Ferrari’s snide comments, Henry Ford II then invested heavily to create a racing car capable of winning at Le Mans, one of the world’s most challenging and prestigious motor races.
At the head of the team goes Carroll Shelby, a former driver having won just that race but is now devoted only to design, who chooses British mechanic and driver Ken Miles as his leader.
Although Miles is an undeniably talented driver, his stubborn attitude creates many difficulties between the sports team and the top management at the helm of Ford.
Amidst minor and major design problems and annoying interference from some of the company’s top executives, the two men fine-tune the Ford GT40, a new model destined to become a racing car legend.
However, Le Mans is a strict 24-hour race during which anything can happen, and both Shelby and Miles can never let their guard down.
Put your will in the wheels
Despite what I said earlier, you don’t strictly need to be a car expert to love a movie like the 2019 Ford v Ferrari.
Indeed, we have not only a series of races one after another, but also an excellent story of friendship and rivalry, lost challenges and unexpected second chances, and above all, the quest to achieve a goal to carve your name among the greatest.
Leading this sports biopic is James Mangold, a director who always has alternately amazed or disappointed me.
His career goes from gems like Girl, Interrupted, and Walk the Line to more disappointing movies like 3:10 to Yuma or The Wolverine, only to rise again with the splendid Logan, the latest chapter (so far) in the adventures of the famous Marvel superhero.
However, even when the director did not convince me, his solid style behind the camera was never in question.
Also, due to Phedon Papamichael‘s excellent cinematography, the racing scenes whiz around the track always with a sense of exaltation for the riders as they face extreme conditions, such as sharp turns, high speed, rain, and smoke.
The exaltation accompanies the fear of some unexpected accidents with cars crashing into barriers and bursting into flames.
Equally tough is the challenge within the walls of Ford’s headquarters between the business will of management versus the passion and determination of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, willing to meet the sporting challenge.
It is a difference we could sum up in the romantic 7,000 rpm mantra of these two characters, always trying to push the car to the limit of its capabilities to achieve maximum performance and power.
This philosophy represents an unwavering commitment to perfection and mastery that extends far beyond the world of racing cars and applies to every aspect of life.
An experience that is Miles above the rest
Along with the perfect technique of Mangold and his crew, the warm humanity of the cast is the real heartbeat of this story of endurance and courage.
The story opens with the Le Man’s race in 1959, where we follow Matt Damon to victory as Carroll Shelby, who soon after must, unfortunately, stop racing due to his heart problems.
As usual, the actor does not disappoint in his performance, playing a man who absurdly, even before his opponents on the track, has to fight against the dirty machinations of Ford’s internal politics.
Christian Bale‘s performance is, as usual, extraordinary and demonstrates his versatile prowess as a multiform actor by completely transforming into Ken Miles‘ persona.
Bale gets right into the skin of this rebellious and undisciplined driver, who often gets into trouble because of his temper and rough personality, which can make him difficult to relate to, but at the same time, makes him authentic and sincere.
Although they begin as rivals, Shelby and Miles later become inseparable until they celebrate winning the Daytona race together, which is the full maturation of a genuine and deep friendship.
Equally stubborn and unstoppable is the beautiful Caitriona Balfe as Miles’ wife, Mollie, capable of instilling courage and confidence in him. However, she also becomes angry when her husband won’t talk to her.
As always, I also enjoyed Jon Bernthal, who here is Lee Iacocca, a Ford executive trying to mediate between management and the sports team. However, after an excellent initial prominence, this character rarely appears in the movie’s second half.
Ford v Ferrari was a hit movie in 2019, praised by critics and grossing over $200 million worldwide.