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Review: Ford v Ferrari

November 15, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by James Mangold, following up his dark and brilliant X-Men spinoff Logan, Ford v Ferrari is a solid piece of mainstream entertainment that feels muscular in its construction.

Based on a true story, the film focuses on the friendship between Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a race car driver whose career got cut short due to a weak heart after winning France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959, and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a temperamental but brilliant driver who runs a struggling auto shop.

When Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), a public relations guy who works for the Ford Motor Company, cooks up a plan to boost their fledgling brand by building a sports car that can compete with and beat Ferarri at Le Mans, the unlikely team of Shelby and Miles become their best bet to take on the Italian company that has cornered the racing market and keeps winning.

The film feels a bit too long at 152 minutes, but it’s consistently entertaining and satisfying on a dramatic level, and carried by a pair of solid performances from the two movie stars at its centre who have great chemistry together. Damon brings his usual easy-going charm to the role of Carroll Shelby, who has the spirit of a race car driver and the sense of a businessman, often having to serve as a negotiator between Ford and Ken Miles. Bale brings his usual focused intensity to his portrayal of the hot-headed Miles, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The cast also includes solid turns from child actor Noah Jupe as Ken’s son Peter Miles, who is often by his father’s side, as well as Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II.

Solidly directed by Mangold, Ford v Ferrari not only boasts good performances, but also has exciting racing scenes that are very well shot by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, who puts the camera at road level to show wheels spinning by right in front of the screen, and great sound design that immerses us in the dull roar of engines and the screeches of rubber on the road. The film actually reminded me a bit of a Disney sports movie, which is fitting because this is one of the first big 20th Century Fox films to be released by Disney following the merger, and it fits in pretty seamlessly with their own roster.

What Ford v Ferrari ultimately works as is a good old-fashioned crowdpleaser that feels almost classical in its presentation, offering a fine balance of both exhilarating racing scenes and moments of well-acted character drama. This is adrenaline-fuelled filmmaking that plays very well in a theatre, making full use of the combined benefits of a big screen and good surround sound system.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Ford v Ferrari is now playing in theatres across Canada.

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