American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Within the “based on a true story” genre, it’s expected that historical liberties will be taken when telling that story, yet they can largely be divided into three categories:
- Largely historically accurate films that are also great – Into the Wild, Lincoln and Zodiac
- Vastly inaccurate and great films – Braveheart, Argo and Amadeus
- Inaccurate films that are also not particularly great – 10,000 BC, Jobs (not to be confused with the great Steve Jobs) and The Amittyville Horror
In fact, director James Mangold has had some success in this genre with Girl, Interrupted, Walk The Line and Kate & Leopold (ok, it’s possible one of those is not based on a true story).
Fortunately, Ford V Ferrari (also known as Le Man’s 66 in some areas) stands in the first two groups as an exceptionally well made piece of cinema although it still falls victim to a few of those dreaded inaccuracies.
A film like this lives and dies on its performances. Luckily Mangold scored an excellent duo with Matt Damon and Christian Bale as real life figures Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, respectively.
For Damon, it’s perhaps his best role and performance since 2015’s The Martian with Shelby providing the actor with an opportunity to bring this complicated and grand personality to the big screen with a ton of charm and heart.
As is usual with Bale, he delivers another great role with a big, loud and larger than life performance that is highly entertaining to watch, serving as a perfect counterbalance to Damon’s more subdued Shelby while still being able to pull at your heartstrings with the arc of a man who knows is destined for great things yet is held back by his own explosive personality.
Their friendship is the emotional frame for the story and both actors are the reason you’ll be rooting for them to overcome massive obstacles despite their personal shortcomings.
Although the director slightly steps into cliche territory with the “big company = villains” angle in regards to the Ford Motor company, it’s a wise choice that the accomplishments of these two men are celebrated as fruits of their intelligence, creativity, passion and perseverance rather than a celebration of Ford or the USA – which is something many other biopics do – allowing this be a more universal and humanizing tale.
Some films deserved to be seen in a big screen and Ford V Ferrari certainly belongs in that category courtesy of its excellent, exciting and pulse pounding racing scenes. The fact that a majority of these set pieces were shot with practical effects and real race cars lends a fantastic dramatic weight while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
An energetic, inspirational, fun and hugely entertaining portrait of the friendship between two men who were able to beat seemingly insurmountable odds with stellar lead performances from Matt Damon and Christian Bale, along with some amazing racing set pieces, Ford V Ferrari is a well oiled machine of a film that deserves to be seen on the biggest and loudest screen possible.