Ford v Ferrari (James Mangold, 2019) 3½ out of 4 stars.
As the endless barrage of superhero movies continue to dominate the theaters during the summer months, James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari brings back the invigorating feeling of blockbusters of yesteryear in the cool winds of autumn. Academy Award winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale lead the film as 1960s racecar icons Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. One is a brilliant car designer and the other a driver the world has never seen before. Together, they join forces with the Ford Motor Company and combine their raw talents to create a race car that will do the unthinkable and beat the Ferrari Motor Company at the 1966 “24 hours of Le Mans” race.
Will Shelby and Miles beat Ferrari or will annoying corporate politics of the Ford Motor Company get in the way? Ford v Ferrari never attempts to reinvent the well-loved wheel of the underdog story. Instead it takes the tropes and clichés we’ve seen in the past and injects them with raw charisma and top-notch craftsmanship. Matt Damon and Christian Bale share on-screen chemistry that is pure electricity. They may not be brothers in blood, but they are in bond.
As the biopic genre grows ever more popular with general audiences, the fewer interesting details of the subjects’ lives we see. With last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, the film persisted in never showing the inner workings of Queen’s songwriting and recording process and instead cut to the concert performance, denying the audience the chance to see why Queen is as legendary of a rock band as it is to this day. In Ford v Ferrari, we see the trial and errors Shelby and Miles experience in order to make the perfect racecar. Without these scenes, the final race at Le Mans would just be an impressive, technical achievement with zero satisfaction.
The film’s success resides with its actors, and this cast is as invigorating as the white-knuckled race sequences. James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari shares similar DNA strands with other biopics, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another biopic with the same amount of pathos and charm.