FORD V FERRARI – A Perfect Duo Revs Old School Hollywood

2019 is getting to the pointy end as we near the year of perfect vision and it’s been a huge year of cinema. We had the ultimate in superhero movies becoming the biggest film in history, we are about to get the final Skywalker movie that will do its best to avenge the current leader for its rightful place of biggest film of all time and despite a spattering of critically acclaimed films, most notably in JOKER, PARASITE and the soon to release in Oz, THE LIGHTHOUSE, there hasn’t been any decent TRULY HOLLYWOOD films. Well that’s just changed with the release of FORD V FERRARI, the Mangold directed Damon Bale car film that takes the audience on a lap of perfectly moulded Hollywood storytelling.

FORD V FERRARI is out now from the fine folks at 20th Century Fox, it is rated M and runs for 152mins. Find the biggest and loudest screen to see this one on.

Ford V Ferrari Matt Damon
Matt Damon

BY JASON KING

FORD V FERRARI SYNOPSIS:

Based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

Ford V Ferrari Christian Bale and Matt Damon
Christian Bale and Matt Damon

BRAVO JAMES MANGOLD:

James Mangold is a slightly left-of-centre director, he is the guy who gives commercial blockbusters a little more depth and almost makes them arthouse cinema. The first film I saw of his was COPLAND, then GIRL, INTERRUPTED, then came the Damon starring 3:10 to YUMA, he succumbed to making a studio comedy and brought us KNIGHT AND DAY, I loved this Cruise/ Diaz romp. It was at this KNIGHT AND DAY period on 2010 he first tried to make FORD V FERRARI, or as it is known in the U.S., LE MANS ’66.

Side tangent: we should have kept the LE MANS ’66 title in Australia, I read this story about a guy who turned up to the premiere or a pre-release screening and had a small twitter meltdown because he thought he was seeing the great (yet to be made film) FORD V HOLDEN! Hahaha this cracked me up.

Back on track! From 2010 Mangold kept checking in with Fox to see if they would green-light the project. There was a script and he was the one that always fought for it. Originally this was planned to be made starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and the script was more ensemble based as opposed to the final script that centred on Shelby and Miles. Once Fox saw Mangold’s LOGAN they green-lit this amazing film we get today. I think it was made when it was supposed to, we have been given a gift with this film, even if you aren’t a motor head and don’t give two hoots about car racing this film will have you on the edge of your seat once the racing starts, it is a remarkably told and paced piece of cinema.

Ford V Ferrari Christian Bale and Matt Damon
Christian Bale and Matt Damon

OLD SCHOOL ADRENALIN CINEMA:

FORD V FERRARI is one of those films that is made purely for the cinematic experience. It’s what I would call epic, it is edge of your seat adrenaline pacing, it allows you to become invested with your lead characters, and it will move you, there will be lots of laughs, lots of tears, and on top of that it is inspiring. It’s a film about car racing that made my heart soar. It reminded me of the big films of the 80s and 90s, TOP GUN but less cheesie, DANCES WITH WOLVES after cars were invented, ERIN BROKOVICH, even as far as THE SOCIAL NETWORK of the naughties.

It’s the DAVID V GOLIATH story told with cars. But it’s not just about Ford V Ferrari, it’s also about genius and talent versus the corporate machine. Shelby and Miles get screwed over multiple times dealing with the machine that is the Ford Corporation. It’s Bean Counters V Doers and this struggle is almost as demanding as the car race. What these guys did was beat insurmountable odds based purely on their brains, intuition and audacity.

Ford V Ferrari Christian Bale and Matt Damon
Christian Bale and Matt Damon

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID:

We NEVER need a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remake but if we did our leads are here. The chemistry between Bale and Damon is next level. The two of them were approached less than 18months ago to star and boy did they nail it. Damon plays the over the top, over confident car guy who has gone from racer to the best car designer in the U.S.A. But it’s that confidence that got them where they ended up. Pure A-Grade cockiness!

Bale is a completely different, an introverted racer with authority issues who never plays by the rules, lives scraping and is an A-Grade bogan who loves his wife and son only slightly more than car racing. As the movie states “some people are called to race cars, it is destiny.” It’s something along those lines. And Bale is perfect, again almost unrecognisable after literally starving himself to lose another 35kgs (70 pounds) for the part.

Miles’ son has a somewhat regular part in the movie, he does little to progress the story but he’s real and he’s played by Noah Jupe, child acting prodigy. Mark my words – this kid will be acting royalty one day. I picked Tom Holland from his first role and Jupe has it all. At 14yrs old he has starred in DOWNTON ABBEY, THE NIGHT MANAGER, SUBURBICON (funnily enough as Matt Damon’s son), WONDER, A QUIET PLACE, HOLMES AND WATSON and has wrapped on A QUIET PLACE 2. That’s the CV most actors would kill for. He lights up the screen.

And to wrap up the acting mentions, JOSH LUCAS, I just love this guy. He plays the single biggest asshole in a movie this year (from memory), and he does it with skill.

Ford V Ferrari Christian Bale and Noah Jupe
Christian Bale and Noah Jupe

SO CLOSE TO 5 POPS:

It was so close to a 5 Pop film for me. There were just two things that didn’t sit perfectly with me. Firstly was the reinvention of Carol Shelby. He has to give up racing after winning his own Le Mans and becomes one of the greatest car designers and builders in the U.S.A. but that bridge didn’t happen, he just went from one to the other without explanation.

Secondly, the post race large scene – I kind of knew the entire time it was coming, I am torn whether it needed to be in the film at all, when it arrived I was like “ok, I’ve been waiting for you.” At the same time I do need to mention I have no bloody idea about the history of this story, I learned everything from what I saw onscreen, but while true history, it almost felt like cliched addition to the film, if you know what I mean?

THE CHECKERED FLAG:

***** SPOILERS IN THE CONCLUSION *****

FORD V FERRARI is one of the best David V Goliath true stories I have seen in years. I haven’t even mentioned yet with how at ease they made the film look like it was set in the 60s. The racing had to be done in five different locations, and it had to all look the same; same weather, same light and so on. You don’t notice a thing!

The level of adrenalin I felt just watching it is enough for it to win awards, but the acting and direction gets it over the line in 5th gear, it is top notch. I think Damon and Bale would cancel each other out for Oscars but Bale deserves one, it is one of the greatest performances of the year, beaten by Joaquin. This one’s a keeper, it will make the collection on 4K Blu Ray when I can get my hands on it.

And to end I should point out the epic achievements of Shelby & Miles – the GT40 Ford made by them is the only American built car to win Le Mans. Not only did it win in ’66, it then won in ’67 and ’68/’69. In 66′ all three GT40s in the race finished 1/2/3. Not only did it beat Ferrari in ’66 it more than rubbed its face in it for years to follow. Bravo!!

SALTY’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. A movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict he is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. 

He believes all it takes to make a good movie is a bloody good story, with a little luck the rest should fall in line. He is getting a little sick of saying “story story story” in his reviews with so much shite releasing in the last decade. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.