Ford v Ferrari (2019) reviewed

My last three posts have all been reviews. I started off by appraising a doco (The Last Dance). I went on to evaluate a TV series (Parks and Rec), before sharing my last three reads. This week I’m going with the theme; I’ll tackle the action blockbuster, Ford v Ferrari. The epic production was released into cinemas in mid-November of last year. Academy-award winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale headline the movie, with Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal, Noah Jupe, and others in supporting roles. Ford is a period film set in the sixties, dealing with the trials and pitfalls of assembling a world-class racing car. Oddly enough, I borrowed the DVD from the library almost three months ago. Repositories have started to re-open so I had to overcome my procrastinating. I finally finished the movie this weekend.   


At the start, Carroll Shelby (Damon) is a high-flying car maker who is friends with Ken Miles (Bale). The Ford boss tries to purchase cash-strapped Ferrari, but Enzo Ferrari bamboozles him. The latter exploits Ford’s offer and instead sells his company to Fiat. He also insults Henry Ford II and Ford Motors. This enrages Ford, who vows to build a car that would topple Ferrari off their perch in Le Mans. Thus, he enlists the help of Shelby, the erstwhile Le Mans champion who now operates American Shelby. Carroll then coaxes Miles, the temperamental and gung-ho British racer. He believes that Miles and his wits are made for the job. He finds a compadre in Lee Iacocca (Bernthal), the company vice-president, who aids his cause.  


The operation goes through various stages of failures, with Miles and Shelby finetuning the GT40. At first, the Ford cars could not even finish races. With careful tweaking combining various iconoclasts at work, the product slowly gets better. Regardless, Leo Beebe (Lucas), senior vice president, is particularly impatient and successfully orders Miles out of the picture. He contends that the latter is not an ideal representative of Ford on the track. Miles is forced to watch from the sidelines as the Ford team underperforms at the race. Shelby is convinced that Miles should run the show. After neutralising Beebe at the office, Shelby shows the head honcho the volatility of the GT40. He convinces Ford that they should go with Miles in Daytona. Should Miles win, Shelby asserted that Miles must race at Le Mans. The boss concurred with Shelby’s piece de resistance.

The race

Fortunately, Miles and his sportscar takes out Daytona, setting the stage for the 24-hour swordfight. Three Ford drivers lined up for the gruelling rally, which was as much as Ferrari displayed. Miles was off to a poor start as he had car trouble. In the opening moments alone, a multiple-car pileup revealed how hungry everyone was to have a slice of glory. All three Ferraris were ahead of him. Not long after, Mr Ford flew off via chopper and apparently had lunch. Ferrari’s pit stop was right next to Ford’s. Miles slowly but surely gained ground, until he was but two laps off the race-leading Ferrari.

In the middle of the all-nighter, the GT40 changed breaks. The Italians next door cried foul, as they reckoned this was against the rules. While having overtaken Bandini, the Italian blows his engine. The GT40 suddenly has a clear path to the finish line. Beebe then tells Ford that having the three cars cross at the same time would be a great scenario for the Ford company. Shelby is beside himself, but ultimately leaves the decision to Miles. For a while, Miles going solo first seems a certainty, until he acquiesces to the company’s demands. However, he is not declared the winner. The judges ruled that the other Ford car was behind on the starting grid and thus had to travel farther. Everyone knows that he was robbed of the victory.


Miles lived doing what he wanted and died doing likewise. His wife was initially against his race driving, but a $200 daily pay swayed her to support his dream. Throughout the film, Miles was also a banner dad to his son. He brought him to his race car and valued his input. He showed him the ropes and took him under his wing. When he was in a tight spot, his son was the first to flinch. After years of fixing and scrutinising cars, Miles had a tremendous grip of the automobile. His knowledge was pooled with both Shelby and his father to create one of the finest American cars of any eras. The GT40 remains the only American-built car to win Le Mans, doing so in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969. Even in his demise, racing fans adored Miles and he was later inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame.


While the movie trended to be slow, the car chases more than made up for it. The dialogue could be dull, and I believe there is a surfeit. Do remember that this is a period film, with retro coke bottles, clocks, stopwatches, telephones, and cars. The glasses and suits were far different then. Ford uses a similar quote for the beginning and near the end: ‘There’s a point – 7000 rpm (revolutions per minute) – where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless, just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. 7000 rpm that’s where you meet it…. Who are you?’ Just as with life, the race car driver goes full circle.


I did find Matt Damon’s Texan accent intriguing. James Mangold helmed the picture. I’ve also seen his efforts with Logan (2017), which I witnessed in the cinema. Ford was both a commercial and critical success. Apart from opening at number one, the film grossed 255M at the box office. Ford also competed for the Best Picture Oscar. The film won two statuettes: Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing. One knock on Ford though is the lengthy run time. Critics may argue that it’s one of last year’s best; I admit that Ford is an A-level production. A final note: being an auto fan is not a requirement to enjoy this feature.

Rating: 4.5/5

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