Film Review: Ford vs Ferrari – 9/10

‘We’re lighter, we’re faster, and if that don’t work, we’re nastier…’

Ford Vs Ferrari (Le Mans '66) Wins Pair Of Academy Awards ...

I never liked boxing. It feels too often like two massive idiots hugging each other until one of them falls down. The magic of a film like Rocky is that it doesn’t matter one jot whether you enjoy boxing or not, Stallone made a film that transcended all of that. Warrior did the same for MMA. A story is a story, and a good filmmaker can turn anything into cinematic gold. I’m not saying that Ford vs Ferrari is the Rocky of car racing, but I am saying that it’s pretty damn close…

Tired of always being upstaged by Ferrari, the Ford car company hires ex-racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and loose cannon Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to build and race a car that can compete at the 24-hour endurance race Le Mans. Shelby and Miles are at loggerheads with Ford execs Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) as well as Ford CEO Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts).

Matt Damon reportedly agreed to sign on to Ford vs Ferrari without reading the script because he wanted to work with Christian Bale so badly. This is reflected in Damon’s performance as he raises his game to keep up with Bale’s manic and energetic turn as the enigmatic Ken Miles. The two share wonderful chemistry culminating in a hilarious fight scene in which both actors have an absolute ball. Josh Lucas and Tracy Letts perhaps sometimes stray a little too close to pantomime villain territory but only in the same way as Carl Weathers’ legendary performance as Apollo Creed in the first two Rocky films (it really is impossible to review a sports film without continuously referring back to Rocky, it seems). You need your villains to be proper villains for the heroes to truly shine.

Despite not being my thing at all away from the big screen, I must admit that car racing lends itself to the art of cinema and the racing sequences here are high-octane, tense and ridiculously exhilarating. Director James Mangold wrings every ounce of suspense out of the final race scene and by the end, it is impossible not to root for Damon and the ragtag team he has assembled.

Whether you are interested in cars or not (I’m not), Ford vs Ferrari is a beautifully human story with a star-studded cast at the very top of their game and a director with a clear passion for the subject matter. An essential film.