Ford v Ferrari Nov 16, 2019 15:55:33 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 16, 2019 15:55:33 GMT -5
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Directed by: James Mangold
Directed by: James Mangold
Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon, left) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in Ford v Ferrari.
Ford v Ferrari is an astute drama directed by an efficient craftsman. It recounts a story known mostly by gearheads backwards and forwards by democratizing its language so unfamiliar viewers won't feel like they need to take an automotive workshop in order to understand it all. The racing scenes are tightly edited and beautifully captured, and the project, in style and decor, rekindles the spirit of New Hollywood.
The film chronicles the true story of a team of American engineers dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca to build a sports car that could ultimately defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France back in 1966. At the center of this team is Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a championship racer who had to retire prematurely due to prolific bouts of hypertension. Embracing his new path in car sales and managing some racers, including the eccentric and hotheaded Ken Miles (Christian Bale), in his spare time, opportunity knocks in Detroit. That's where Ford II (playwright Tracy Letts) is having a hard time selling his automobiles to a hipper, younger generation with money and options, especially after the well-documented failure of the Ford Edsel (curiously unmentioned in the film, I might add).
That's where Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) comes in, and attempts to steer Ford in the direction of making a sports car that can compete with the perennially successful Italian company Ferrari. Ford II, belonging to an old school mindset, initially rejects Iacocca's plan, believing that for the right price, they can acquire Ferrari. When that unsurprisingly backfires, he's all in on the idea, and that's where Shelby and Miles come into play. Despite vicious opposition to Miles and his combative demeanor, Ford II concedes to let both him and Shelby helm the project in making a compact car that can reach speeds up to 220 mph and ultimately defeat Ferrari at the Le Mans in 1966.
The challenge with the material at hand is making it not only digestible but interesting to moviegoers who might not have much knowledge about cars at all (i.e. myself). With that in mind, the trio of writers (Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller) focus less on the details of what would become the Ford GT40 and more on the situational drama that accompanied its inception. Matt Damon sinks into the role of Carroll Shelby with confidence, effectively humanizing one of the most recognizable surnames in the automotive industry. Christian Bale chews his words with a British dialect that reminds you he doesn't need to disappear under several pounds of makeup nor be utterly unrecognizable in order to deliver a strong performance. Don't sleep on Tracy Letts either, whose character has perhaps the strongest moment of pathos in the film after riding shotgun with Shelby in the GT40 at breakneck speeds around the track.
Ford v Ferrari was directed by James Mangold, famous for bringing characters like Johnny Cash and the Wolverine to life in strong, subversive features. Working in the sun-kissed land of sixties California, with a washed out color palette, Mangold makes the backdrop easy on the eyes. Where he and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska) really shine, however, is in capturing the races with crystal clear detail. Just yesterday, I saw Charlie's Angels and lamented about how Elizabeth Banks' camerawork during moments of combat inhibited any sort of spatial awareness and cohesion. Mangold and editors Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland — two names who won't be talked about enough come awards season, I fear — do an astounding job at following cars redlining in an immersive manner. We're not stuck watching tires spin or closeups of crashes that render nearly everything practically indistinguishable, but instead we are treated to clarity that, amazingly, places us into these sequences and reminds us what's at stake.
The film is admittedly bloated at 152 minutes, with a handful of feet-dragging moments that try to assert the earnest side of the story a bit too much. After two hours and several heart-to-heart and fist-to-cuffs moments between Shelby and Miles, anymore is simply overkill. Thankfully, it's the personality that exists in the characters, the racing sequences, and the mood of the picture that puts gas in Ford v Ferrari's tank, which helps carry it over those sagging spots and primes it for a thrilling conclusion.
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, and Noah Jupe. Directed by: James Mangold.