'Ford v Ferrari' movie review: Pedal to the metal

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s Ford v Ferrari.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s Ford v Ferrari.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Plenty of adrenaline-fuelled racing sequences keeps the torque on high, along with Christian Bale and Matt Damon's underplayed bromance

Close to the halfway mark in Ford v Ferrari, a supporting character quips, “It’s about right now that the uninitiated have a tendency to soil themselves.” He’s of course referring to the deathly speed at which a sports car twists, turns and conquers a track. But the statement is also reflective of the sentiments that director James Mangold and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael have the ability to elicit from an audience who’s simply watching a race recreated on screen. It’s true that sullied clothes are a stretch in this analogue but shifting camera angles, high-pressure stakes, explosive crashes, and a steely Christian Bale behind the wheel make the edge of a cinema seat home.

The adrenaline rush the two produce sure gets as close as it could, in lieu of actually being strapped inside a zooming vehicle. It’s this flood of feelings that torpedo over the rest of Ford v Ferrari’s drama. That’s not to say the film’s narrative isn’t captivating. For a film about racing, Mangold and Papamichael naturally play to their strengths and succeed, they do.

Ford v Ferrari
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon
  • Storyline: When Ford builds a car to compete with a Ferrari at Le Mans, the only thing standing in the way is the company itself.

The 2019 sports drama film tells the true story of how American behemoth, Ford Motor Company tried to defeat multiple-race-winning Ferrari at the ‘1966 24 Hours of Le Mans’ in France. When forced to ideate, vice president at Ford, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) proposes a merger with Ferrari. Racial slurs (silenced by the Indian censors) and insulting words end with chaos instead of collaboration. Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) in retaliation decides to build a car that will defeat the Italian spots auto manufacturer partnering with the only American to ever win Le Mans, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) owner of Shelby Automobiles. The man Shelby chooses to build and eventually race this Ford car is the notoriously uncompromising Ken Miles (Bale).


Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s Ford v Ferrari.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s Ford v Ferrari.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement



Set in 1960s America where half horn-rimmed glasses donning men in suits ruled the boardroom, Ford v Ferrari is less about America against Italy and more about the internal politics at the car company. Even though, they’ve positioned the European country’s men as diabolical and calculated shrews.

Instead, the crux centres round the eternal debate of how far an ego will stoop to achieve petty vindication. This tussle is brilliantly machined by Josh Lucas playing the scheming Ford executive Leo Beebee.

While Damon and Bale’s characters don’t explicitly embrace their bromance that’s just about lingering beneath the surface, the duo’s moments of levity are heartwarming. A particularly un-machismo scuffle that includes the ‘Llama bite’ — an ‘under-the-arm nippy bite thing’ — is one of several gags peppered throughout this serious sports drama. Shelby’s quiet Texan restrain perfectly complements Mile’s Cockney brash, giving emotional breadth to Ford v Ferrari. But the film also soars because of a brilliant supporting cast, Bernthal — Netflix’s The Punisher — steals plenty of attention with his turn as the only temperate character cooling hot tempers and egos. Letts particularly shines in a surprisingly emotion-fuelled breakdown that’s both awkward and brave.

In spite of substantial mumbo jumbo about car specifications and other technicalities — that swoop over non-enthusiasts’ heads — Ford v Ferrari still ensures a fun ride for all.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 4:19:21 AM |

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