A Brilliant Mesh of Entertainment and Storytelling

A Review of "Ford v Ferrari"

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Peyton Berry

A poster of the new movie Ford v Ferrari.

Seeing as this movie is coming from the director of Logan, audience members can expect something great. I was just praying that it was better than Midway.

Ford v Ferrari is directed by James Mangold and stars Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby, a former race car driver who was forced to retire after suffering heart problems at the end of a race, and Christian Bale as Ken Miles, a hot-tempered British driver. After Ferrari wins the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans for the fourth time in a row, Shelby and Miles are hired by Ford to build a car that can wipe the floor with their competitors. However, in order to do so, they must battle their own personal demons, and the corporate executive determined to get rid of them both.

After the complete and utter trainwreck that was Midway, I walked into Ford v Ferrari desperately needing something to erase that memory. I wasn’t even hoping to see a great movie, like I always do. I simply wanted something serviceable. However, I should’ve known better than to doubt the ability of Mangold and co-writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, who wrote the excellent Edge of Tomorrow. This is a phenomenal film, one that somehow manages to find the perfect balance between entertaining the masses and telling a story that serious filmgoers will admire.

The performances in this film are on point. Matt Damon gives possibly his best performance in years as Shelby. I have to admit that I, and several others, were very concerned about Damon playing a Texan with a deep Southern accent. However, those concerns were swept under the rug within his first five minutes of screentime. Christian Bale somehow manages to best everyone in another phenomenal performance as Miles. His physical transformation is insane, given that he lost 70 pounds in order to play the incredibly gaunt-looking Miles. However, let’s not focus on the weight. That’s an easy way of getting award nominations at the end of the year. Bale completely disappears inside the personality of Ken Miles, and if he doesn’t at least garner an Oscar nomination, I’m going to officially check out from the Academy Awards. However, I’ve said that before.

The entire last hour of the film is what most audience members came to see: the 1966 Le Mans, which may just be one of the best action scenes of any kind all year. The race is practically done from beginning to end, which is practically unheard of in the 21st century. Mangold succeeds in making a visually beautiful movie, from beginning to end. The cinematography is incredibly well-done, with every shot looking like a painting. Mangold’s direction is so sharp that the Oscars will likely ignore it, as they’re typically ignorant when it comes to biopics.

However, the racing sequences wouldn’t have been nearly as enthralling if it weren’t for the first two acts. The first 90 minutes are largely action-free, so we can spend more time with the characters. The movie is 152 minutes long, and for a film that should fit more along the lines of a biopic rather than an action movie, that’s a bit of a risk. Thankfully, the screenwriters fill those first two acts with compelling drama and lots of comedy that makes it to where I really began to care about Miles and Shelby. So, in that third act when everything is on the line, the racing sequences didn’t feel empty. Instead, they felt plucked out of real life.

As for flaws, there’s only one misstep that the film makes. The corporate interference that our heroes went through in real life is embodied by the real-life character of Leo Beebe, played by Josh Lucas, who actually does a pretty good job. However, from a historical standpoint, Beebe wasn’t the villain that the film makes him out to be. The muddying of a real-life person who never acted as the film portrays him is slightly annoying. But, he doesn’t show up that often. He only shows up every once in a while to make things harder for the main characters, which keeps his impact on the story minimal.

In the end, Ford v Ferrari manages to entertain casual audience members while still demonstrating brilliant writing, incredible acting, and sharp direction that will please serious filmgoers. This is a film that can’t be missed.

 

Rating: A