‘Ford v Ferrari’ Movie Review: James Mangold Crafts a Highly Enjoyable Film About Racing and Friendship

“The car’s yours, Ken.”

Indeed, it was.

Once upon a time, Ford Motor Company dreamed of a way to beat the racing giant Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The problem? Ford didn’t have a car at the time to do that. Ferrari had won the previous four years and on top of that, Enzo Ferrari essentially snickered at the idea of Ford possibly striking up a partnership with them. That is when Jon Bernthal’s Lee Iacocca decided to search for the guys who could take them across the finish line. The rest, as they say; is history.

The Plot Behind the Movie

In case you have forgotten, director James Mangold is the man who brought us Logan (2017). Mangold brings us another winner with Ford v Ferrari. If you’re not a car fan, no worries. Neither am I. Ford v Ferrari is so much more than a racing movie. Not only is it an exciting tale of an industry underdog, but the core of the film is the relationship between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. Matt Damon plays the former Le Mans (1959) winner, who was forced to retire due to a heart condition. Playing opposite of him is Christian Bale as the hot-headed mechanic and racer Ken Miles. In a way, we have to ask, who cares about racing in this movie? It was all about Shelby and Miles.

This Was a Movie About People, Not Cars

When Iacocca approaches Shelby, the former racer knows Miles is his man. While Miles may have a temper, he is delightfully chipper and a wonderful husband and father. His relationship with his wife Mollie, played by Caitriona Balfe; and his son Peter, Noah Jupe; is incredibly endearing. Mollie knows her husband completely and knows that the love of racing will always call him back to the racetrack. No matter how dangerous. At the same time, she doesn’t take his shit; and I truly enjoyed their time on screen together.

Although the film is called Ford v Ferrari, I found the true antagonist to be Josh Lucas’s Leo Beebe. As the Senior Executive Vice President of Ford, Beebe attempts to foil Ken and Shelby’s plans every step of the way. Even with Iaccoca and Henry Ford II on their side, the team is consistently roadblocked by Beebe. Why? I don’t know. It’s never explained. He works for Ford, but would rather Ford lose than have Ken Miles as the face of Ford’s victory. It was incredibly frustrating and not knowing his motivation was one of the negatives of this movie.

Spoilers

Ford v Ferrari’s plot is that Ford aims to beat Ferrari at Le Mans. What you aren’t expecting, is to have Beebe as the true obstacle. Ferrari becomes less of the enemy in the film and more of simply the snickering, arrogant opponents in the corner. Ford may have put Ferrari up on a pedestal, much like how it was the Russians that the Americans wanted to beat in the film (and real-life event) ‘Miracle’. But, the real challenge was bureaucracy. Paperwork. Rules and regulations set by those who probably have never even stepped foot in a racecar.

More Spoilers

The end of the Le Mans race is unexpected. There were so many moments throughout the film where your heart raced a little. You became excited and suddenly, racing was exciting. You rooted for Ken Miles. The hot-tempered Brit who loved his family, trusted Shelby, and just wanted to make a good car. Even though he had his hot-headed moments, Miles was awfully gentlemanly and a good sport. There were times where Ford was d*cking him around so much that I was surprised he stayed on. I think part of it was his love of the sport and knowing he needed to provide for his family.

Mangold really tugs at the heartstrings in the last quarter of the film and as we saw with Logan, he’s no stranger to building up characters and taking them away from you. If you know real-life events, then you know who I’m talking about.

Rating: 4/5

Everyone in this movie did an absolutely fantastic job. While Damon’s Shelby was well-rounded and performed well, it was Bale’s Miles who was the absolute standout in this film. I will be surprised if he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination. Of course, you know I was happy that not only was Bernthal’s character in the whole movie, but he didn’t die! We love Bernthal when he’s beating people up, but as the man said himself; it was nice seeing him in a suit. Lucas did a great job in making you absolutely hate him, which was the whole point of his character. And, Balfe really was the heart of Miles as the character and her strength as a person and a mother was wonderful to watch.

Don’t walk, but race (pun intended) to see Ford v Ferrari!