Telluride 2019: Ford v Ferrari
Out of all the films that I’ve seen at Telluride this year, there’s only one that comes to mind that might be considered a ‘large’ Hollywood film. That film is Ford v Ferrari. The latest from director James Mangold, and the greatest testament to the power of racing films since Ron Howard’s Rush.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale bring life to Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, respectively, in this outstanding true tale of two men who battled the corporate Ford Motor Company in order to produce a vehicle that might revolutionize the brand and outrun Ferrari in 1966’s 24 Hours Le Mans race. During that time, Ferrari was the creme de la creme, but going bankrupt. After a failed merger with Ferrari, (they’d later sell their brand to the Italian Fiat) Ford decided it was their time to beat them at their own game. Carroll Shelby (Damon), a retired race car driver, was brought on the project, advertised as the great car builder of his day, with an exuberant British driver Ken Miles (Bale) in tow. Controversial Leo Bebe (Josh Lucas) was given run of the show as racing director until Shelby coerced Ford into putting him in charge, making sure Miles was the key driver for future races. This combination of Shelby’s manufacturing skills, and Miles’ skills behind the wheel worked and from there history was made with each race.
Historically speaking, Ford v Ferrari does an accurate job representing the events that led to the climax of the 1966 24 Hour Le Mans and subsequent races thereafter. The movie resembles the demands of corporate America, while wanting to push the rules and limits of car manufacturing. James Mangold (Logan, Girl Interrupted) pulls in his audience with beautiful cars, the tension of racing, a sound design worthy of Oscar buzz, and high-calibur performances. Bale and Damon have a dynamic that comes naturally through their friendship and banter, while Tracy Letts is virtually unrecognizable playing Henry Ford II. Even the more minor parts of the film are captivating, so much so that the 152 minute runtime races by.
Not too long ago, I got into a race movie watching binge. I watched Senna, Rush, and many other documentaries. Some were of high quality, while some of the documentaries fell short of what I was expecting. However, I find racing films invigorating and Ford v Ferrari will absolutely be added to the list as one of the best racing films I have ever seen. It’s up there as one of my favorite Mangold films, too. Once the end credits started rolling, I immediately wanted to watch it again. Ford v Ferrari is funny, moving, entertaining and emotional when it needs to be; it embodies everything you would want from a high budget Hollywood film.
Like the roaring engines themselves, Ford v Ferrari is loud and full of energy. James Mangold has created a spectacle that needs to be seen in a theater to grasp just how amazing the sound design and visuals truly are. The scenes recreating Le Mans will get your blood pumping, ensuring that the excitement doesn’t stop. It should be seen loud (like Howard’s Rush), and I cannot stress that enough. It makes its audience feel like their behind the wheel, which is to say it’s an extremely suspenseful, sensory experience. Don’t be afraid to take a nice long drive afterwards, but please, drive carefully (and quickly).