Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap. You see it?
Ford v Ferrari tells the incredible true story set in the 1960s, the movie follows the renowned ex racer, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and a short tempered and mildly arrogant but extremely talented driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) as they attempt to beat Ferrari, the fastest car at the time with a Ford in the famous 24 hours of Le Mans.
Arguably one of the most talented directors working today, James Mangold is a steady hand at the helm of this two-and-a-half-hour experience. The film’s brilliance is however not the result of any single cog working to perfection but every moving part working in tandem to build a flawless machine. The direction, the editing, the performances, the score, the production design, Ford v Ferrari very literally fires on all cylinders.
Ford v Ferrari very literally fires on all cylinders.
With a film centred on race cars and the thrill of 7000 RPM, turning the film into a Fast and Furious sequel is an unfortunate possibility. Mangold however sought something deeper than the action with this film, something more profound. At its heart Ford v Ferrari is about character and a powerful friendship. Ken Miles is a brash, often rude driver and car mechanic, a man whose real home is behind the wheel or under the hood. Shelby is a man haunted by his days of glory yet determined to push his cars across the finish line. Meanwhile the Ford Motor Company desperately searches for a revival in business, they eventually find hope for their company on the racetrack, challenging the mighty Ferrari in the 24 hours of Le Mans. Shelby, the only American who has ever won the Le Mans and Miles, the only driver who could give Ford a fighting chance tirelessly begin their work building the ultimate speed machine. The real story in this journey is the friendship between these two men and their tireless pursuit for excellence.
Christian Bale once again disappears into his character, after portraying Dick Cheney in Vice, Ken Miles is a starkly different character especially physically and yet again Bale pulls off an incredible physical transformation proving once again his unbelievable commitment to his craft. Miles goes through perhaps the most elaborate emotional arcs of any character in the film, a passion for cars, a family to support, and an intolerance for the polished self-importance of big corporations. Bale conveys the sophistication of this character with ease, he becomes Miles, enchanting the audience with a brash charm delivering a performance that is nothing short of Oscar worthy.
Carroll Shelby is perhaps the one man who really understands Miles, the only man who sees the real brilliance of Miles and perhaps the only true friend Mile has. Damon gives this performance the force it deserves portraying a great American car manufacturer who believed in excellence and who truly understood what it took to carry home a Le Mans victory. Shelby is the audience’s character. We see and experience the film in his shoes, and we understand the difficulty of the decisions he is forced to make. We feel the victories, the defeats and the pain with Shelby and Matt Damon brings that emotional range to his performance which again is worthy of the highest honours.
When the film does hit the racetrack, when the audience is put behind the wheel, the film reveals a whole new adrenaline rush. The races are jaw droppingly brilliant. The film gives the car fanatics exactly what they want and more. The growl of the engines, the burning rubber, the screeching metal, the thrill of the race, it’s all dialled to eleven. The sequences are masterfully shot, the camera is low and tight, interiors are close to the driver, we feel their heart pound as they knock the car into fifth gear. The exterior shots are close to the ground, we see the sparks and rubble fly, we feel the heat. The grit and danger of a race is perfectly portrayed, nothing is predictable, no one is safe. Mangold creates a claustrophobic, tense yet realistic portrayal of a race giving the audience some of the greatest race sequences perhaps of all time.
Ford v Ferrari is one of 2019’s most entertaining experiences while telling a compelling and emotional story at the same time. There is not a moment the film takes its foot of the gas, no missed opportunities, no weak performances, no broken moments. The film is a clear contender for the best of the year and is certainly worthy of the title. Not only is it a cut above most of the year’s filmography but it will likely stand the test of time to cement a place in Hollywood’s finest moments. In a powerful moment with his son Ken Miles says, Out there is the perfect lap. You see it? As far as movies go, Ford v Ferrari is the perfect lap.