Based on the true story, Ford v. Ferrari takes us back to the year 1966 when the Ford Motor Company was at a crossroads. Losing money and having failed in their attempt to buy Ferrari, they decide that they ultimate opportunity to turn around their company is to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. In an effort to redesign their vehicles for racing, Ford enlists the help of American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). However, with innovation comes new ideas which threaten the status quo and, as a result, the two men must battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons in order to change history.
Shot with energy and excitement, Ford v. Ferrari feels a throwback film to the such classic ‘guy films’ as Days of Thunder and Top Gun at times. Similar to these other films, Ford v. Ferrari shoots its race sequences with vigor, intensity and fun while emphasizing the stakes at hand. Simple and straightforward in its approach, the film is entertaining and engaging with solid chemistry between its characters. Though the entire cast remains engaged throughout the film, it’s really enthusiastic performances by stars Damon and Bale that push the film forward as their brotherly bromance serves as the film’s backbone.
Given that some of his most recent work includes Logan, 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line, it should come as no surprise that director James Mangold continues to explores the masculine identity here as well. However, while these other examples seek to explore the complexity of the male ego, Ford v. Ferrari instead celebrate masculine intensity and competitiveness. While women in the film are held with respect, this really is a film about men looking to prove the size and power of their engines. When Henry Ford’s masculinity is threatened by Enzo Ferrari, his immediate response is to crush his enemies on their home turf of La Mans. Meanwhile, within Ford’s company, right-hand man Leo Beebe reminds Shelby who signs the paychecks by insisting that he does things the ‘Ford way’. Money, winning and power are the gold standards in this world as men scratch and claw at one another for dominance.
Where the film differs in this approach however is through Shelby and Miles who, although driven to prove their worth on the racetrack, get most excited when invited to create. Their purest joy comes through developing new technology and breaking barriers. Rather than being driven to win, their primary interest in Le Mans is based on breaking new barriers and showing the stodgy old regimes in power that their ideas and improvements matter. For Shelby and Miles, progress and innovation are the ultimate victory. Even though winning the competition at Le Mans is the goal, there is a freedom in their creativity that creates an almost divine sense of joy in these men that gives them life and energy. For Shelby and Miles, hope lies in the challenge of making something new, as opposed to maintaining the status quo.
In the end, Ford v. Ferrari races across the finish line with fun and fervour. While the film does slightly miss an opportunity to explore the fragile nature of the male ego, it also proves highly entertaining and engaging. As a result, solid performances and high-octane energy ensures that Ford v. Ferrari crosses the finish line well.
Ford v. Ferrari recently had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and roars into theatres on November 17th, 2019.