Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe
Director: James Mangold
It’s very easy to look at a film like Ford v Ferrari on paper and theorize that it’s going to be one of the best movies of the year. With Mangold, Damon, and Bale teaming up to make a sports drama, this is one of the movies I predicted a year in advance would be one of the ones competing at Awards ceremonies this winter. After watching Ford v Ferrari, it looks like one of predictions came out strong and lived up to expectations. Tense, action-packed, and well-made, Ford v Ferrari is one of the strongest sports movies of the decade and one that almost anyone can enjoy.
The film follows Carroll Shelby (Damon), a former race car driver who now builds and sells cars. When the Ford Motor Company asks him to work on a car that can beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Shelby insists on having Ken Miles (Bale), a talented but hot-headed driver, behind the wheel of Ford’s entry. Over the course of 152 minutes, we see Carroll and Ken work together to build a car that can achieve this goal while dealing with the corporate pressures of Ford and the external threats of Ferrari dominating the racing circuit. The thing that makes Ford v Ferrari so impressive is the way it immerses the audience into every scene. With the way the sound is shown to us, it makes us feel as though we’re right there on the track with these men. Racing is an up-close, personal, and loud sport, and I’m glad Mangold didn’t go with the decision to mute this experience for audiences. The sound helps establish a level of connectability to the characters and their circumstances as compared to other movies where we have to rely exclusively on their performances. Speaking of the performances, it’s no surprise that Damon and Bale have an incredible chemistry together and truly represent a duo that lives through both their conflict and their comradery. Both of them have individual goals that they wish to accomplish, but at the end of the day both of them realize they need each to get what they want. Bale is an acting chameleon transforming his body back to racing shape after his weight gain in Vice while Damon shows us once again why he’s been a consistent box office draw for over 20 years. Whether these emotions are the joys of success or the struggles of this process, Damon and Bale work wonderfully together to convey the proper emotional tone of each scene while still being entertaining and exciting. As a director, Mangold has built a career on taking large-scale, ambitious projects and making them digestible and enjoyable for both highbrow critics and commercial audiences alike. Even if the movie is a little long at 152 minutes, Ford v Ferrari makes the most of its time by acting as a thrilling sports drama that will end up being celebrated by all types of circles when everything is all said and done.
Overall, Ford v Ferrari lived up to almost every type of expectation I placed on it and redeems some of my less than stellar predictions from earlier in the year. You really can’t go wrong with a trio of Mangold, Damon, and Bale, so really this is the type of movie you enter thinking, “how good can this movie really be?” This experience is only enhanced in a Dolby or IMAX theater, so if you have the opportunity to see it in one of those formats I highly recommend it. I hope this movie ends up getting the long-term recognition it deserves, as it may be awhile before we see such a concrete and strong sports movie again.
Overall Score: 8/10