Ford Vs Ferrari

If the movie Rudy is any indication of human nature, then it would seem to indicate that most movie goers like myself, love a good underdog story. Something about routing for a person or team who has a snowballs chance in hell of winning only to prove victorious in the end gives us the feeling that anything is possible. Ford V Ferrari is precisely this type of movie, where Ford, a company known for its boxy suburban family cars, takes on one of the fastest racing teams in the world, in one of the most brutal races in the world, to prove that America has what it takes to be victorious.

Ford V Ferrari is based on the true story of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a pair of racing legends (and a not your typical auto manufacturer suits) who are tasked from Henry Ford II to build a car that can beat Ferrari at the 24-hour endurance Le Mans race. Both men are forced to overcome the large automakers bureaucracy, and put their own reputations on the line, if they want to do the impossible. Carrol, unable to drive any longer due to a heart condition relies on his friend Ken Miles to do all the driving. Ken doesn’t fit in with the Ford image and is regularly in conflict with not only his team, but the man in charge of Ford’s racing division Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas). With an unexpected ally, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), the group must overcome their anger, their cockiness and their image if they expect to win.

Christian Bale, as the cynical and angry Ken Miles, performs an Oscar worthy performance, easily besting any films he has done in the past. Matt Damon pulls off the impossible, with his portrayal of the automotive legend. Both leads share equal amount of screen presence and are so believable in their roles that this could easily be mistaken as a documentary. With an incredible supporting cast including Jon Bernthal, Caitrioina Balfe (as the incredibly funny and strong Mollie Miles), Noah Jupe (as Ken’s young son Peter) and the perfectly evil Ford executive Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), none of the characters feel like stereotypes and bring believability to the film.

The visuals, and racing excitement are phenomenal as one might expect, but it’s the story that kept my heart racing through it’s 2 and a half hour run time. While parts of the film are certainly exaggerated to make for a more interesting story, there were so many parts that the were so unbelievable that I had to refer to Wikipedia just to see how true they stayed to the story. It’s easy to see why Fox (now Disney) and Director James Mangold felt that this story was worth sharing on the big screen, it’s just so surprising that it took so long to get it there. While the title certainly explains the effort needed to beat Ferrari, it’s the interactions and drama that takes place off the race track where the true “V” comes from. This could have easily been titled Shelby V Ford or Miles V Beebe, although the title certainly would have looked lack luster had it been that way. It’s amazing how many names even non-car folks will recognize, outside of even the main cast of characters we are given glimpse of racing legends Bondurant and McLaren.

Ford V Ferrari is easily the best picture of the year, as excited as I was to see it and with my already high expectations for the film, it delivered in spades. My wife, who isn’t a car fan and I practically had to drag her to see the movie came out of it saying that she felt it was the best picture of the year. It makes it easy to recommend to everyone, when you don’t have to be a racing aficionado to enjoy the film. While some knowledge of who the main characters are (and how they changed automotive history) is helpful, it’s certainly not a prerequisite to enjoy it. While the cars and race scenes may be enough to entertain the very youngest of viewers, the films ultimate appeal will be to those who can appreciate it for the story it tells. Ford V Ferrari could (and should) receive plenty of award nominations this year, it’s a believable, fast-paced piece of Americana that should not be missed.

5 out of 5 stars.