“Drive it like you mean it. Hard and tight.”
James Mangold, whose directions have resulted in outcomes from diverse genres like psychological horror thriller (Identity), western (3:10 To Yuma), biography (Walk The Line), cop crime drama (Cop Land), superhero action (The Wolverine, Logan) presents us with a juicy sports drama with Ford V Ferrari.
As the title suggests, it refers to the rivalry between the two giants in the arena of sports car racing, with the turf being Le Mans – a 24 hours grand prix of endurance and efficiency. Ferrari has the fastest cars in the world and have won Le Mans for few years in a row. Ford, well known for mass production- thanks to the assembly line invention by Henry Ford, is a sleeping giant. The successor Henry Ford, his son, Henry Ford 2 is proposed with a business idea to make the fastest car in the world to win the Le Mans and snatch the title from undefeatable Ferrari. That’s it!
To fulfill the dream, the corporate executives mobilises and Vice President of Ford, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) is tasked to find the best match in the America. Soon he discovers Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) an automotive designer, racing driver & engineer. Ford’s ambitious project is outsourced to Carrol Shelby’s engineering unit. Shelby pitches the idea of having Ken Miles to steer the fastest car. Ken Miles, a stubborn driver, played by Christian Bale is someone to rely on when it comes to engaging with cars. He believes more in his sense over numbers from computers.
The movie, Ford V Ferrari opens up with a beautiful prologue of what it means to drive at 7000 RPM- it’s a feeling which is unmatched with any other moment for a race car driver in his life. As the story unfolds, Shelby places complete trust in the capability of Miles as a driver who can not only develop a car which will overtake Ferrari but also serve as front lead in Le Mans to endure for the gruelling 24 hours. Alas, it’s not the best car which gets fastest to the finish line but it’s the collaboration of man and machine which delivers the magic. Success of the movie hinges on the camaraderie of Shelby & Miles. The movie may have been about triumph of Ford but at the very heart it’s a story of two friends who would overcome human barriers, corporate favoritism and technical challenges to give viewers a wonderful 150 minutes of the world of racing.
There are moments when the raging racing sequences make it no less than an exploration of uncharted territory of space. It’s about conquering the known and unknown at the same time. The last act is an enormous 45 mins sequence of the actual race which keeps viewers pumping for more. The wind, the rain, the tension in the pit, the nervousness on the face of Enzo Ferrari & Henry Ford 2, the tiredness of the drivers, oily & greezy hands of the mechanics offers a wonderful view of the complex ecosystem of racing. This could have been made as an intense drama few decades back, but with humorous elements and engaging conversations, this piece is molded into a unique entertainer of the year. Portrayal of Henry Ford 2 as a hardass boss who wants to “go to war in Europe again” and Shelby stealing the Italian watches from Ferrari pit stop are avenues which serves as a relief for a movie which relies on all technicalities. Another great performance by Christian Bale (who lost enough pounds to fit in, yet again!) and charisma of Matt Damon’s character reigns supreme. Ford V Ferrari joins the list of great car racing movies Le Mans, Rush, Grand Prix.