TIFF 2019 Exclusive : James Mangold’s ‘Ford vs Ferrari’ Review

Angry at being rebuffed to buy the Ferrari company, Henry Ford (Tracey Letts) hires a team to build a better, faster car that will soundly defeat the Italian car giant. Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) was a former race driver who had defeated Ferrari in 1959 but now built and designed cars because of his bad heart. Hired by Ford, he brought in his known to be difficult friend, war hero Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to advise and commandeer the race car. Miles is well known for his hot temper, but also his extraordinary knowledge of the workings of an automobile. He was one of those guys who could feel if something was wrong, could hear if the motor was not performing, understood how to get more speed.

Watching these two gifted actors go high octane in the film, building a better, faster car despite the interference of a corporate harpy, a petty punk portrayed well by Josh Lucas happy to take the credit for the work of the other men. Director James Mangold does a fine job balancing the high testosterone scenes on the track as the men push themselves farther than they thought possible, with the sequences of them at home. Miles felt he had nothing to lose, so pushed himself harder than anyone could and was constantly dealing with the threat of being replaced or fired by the corporate drones who knew nothing.

Only after Carroll takes Ford for a ride in the car he has paid nine million dollars to build is Miles job secured. Ford is loaded into the car at which point Carroll tears away, hitting speeds in excess of two hundred miles per hour, reducing Ford to a blubbering mess, the man having no idea speed was so exciting and terrifying. After that Miles kept his job but the interference never ceased.

Mangold magnificently shows what it is to be moving at two hundred miles an hour in sequences that are superbly edited. In many scenes we see the track as Miles sees it, at the speed he must dart in and around other cars to stay ahead. The performances are first-rate as we might expect from two of the finest actors in the film. Damon as Carroll is watchful, missing nothing, always casting a cautious eye over Miles, making sure he is safe. He understands car racing, whereas Miles has forgotten more than anyone else could know. He weaves through the track seeking an opening, knowing when the block will come so he bides his time because patience is required even at two hundred miles an hour. Arrogant, cocky but remarkable at his job, Miles may be prickly, but he has the respect of everyone who knows even a little about racing. I am always surprised to hear his native English accent coming out of Bale, he has portrayed an American so often.

History tells us that Ford did topple Ferrari at the Le Man’s24-hour race in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969 even after losing Miles in an accident six months after Ford won that first race. His death devastated Carroll, he never got over it. The family scenes are a bit of a bore, but the film is a solid entertainment, nicely directed, beautifully edited.

 

The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

 

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