“My proudest moments are beating Ferrari for the World Championship in 1965, and working with Ford to win Le Mans in 1966 and 1967.” -Carroll Shelby
What does it mean to go fast? For Carroll Shelby and his friend Ken Miles it meant everything. It meant freedom, freedom from worry over nothing beyond the car they were driving and what lies beyond the next curve. Often times a detriment to their own well-being. Although habitually seen as reckless it was their adamancy to do things their own way that would lead to their and mutually Ford’s overall success at Le Mans. Not only this but through their dominance of Le Mans it was a rebranding of Ford entirely as something more than a vehicle for trips to the grocery store. Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles were game changers and rambunctious troublemakers, reveling in every moment of it.
If Shelby was the immovable object then Miles was undoubtedly the unstoppable force. When they would clash against one another it seemed to usually lead to something positive directed at the prospects of beating Ferrari once and for all. When their clashing spilled over onto others it usually meant one or both of them was losing their job but it rarely ever stopped them from throwing wrenches, cursing out CEOs of Ford or even the occasional unsuspecting bystander. They were willful and it would often cause some friction to put it mildly. But without them Ford would remain a laughing stock of the racing world.
When left to their own devices they were brilliant racecar drivers, expert mechanics, and determined designers of the next big thing in the world of moving faster than their competitors. With such exuberant character traits it’s only fitting that such a talented cast was pieced together to tell this tale of winning, second chances, and knowing one’s worth.
Matt Damon as Shelby is a determined car designer who knows pure, raw talent when they’re sitting in the driver’s seat and with Ken Miles, played brilliantly, as usual, by Christian Bale, he saw the winning ticket and ultimate solution to Ford’s Ferrari woes in the racing circuit. But as one obstinate man recognizes the same in another, this causes pause from those funding the project. It is through sheer stubbornness and some finesse behind the wheel that Shelby, Miles, and their team accomplished all that they did. Damon and Bale convey the determination that motivated these men with a complete command and understanding of who these men were and what they meant to the racing community. Their chemistry is palpable and every moment they share on screen is pure brilliance whether it’s something hilarious or earth shattering they come together with nothing but one hundred percent conviction.
James Mangold, after directing the astounding Logan, returns with Ford v Ferrari, a meaningfully delivered biographical drama of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles in an unlikely climb to the top racing echelon. While his focus on the track is powerfully captured with tremendous racing sequences and jarring, nail biting moments of bent metal and fire consumed wreckage, his time spent on the people fueling this dream are equally as fascinating. Bale playfully but respectfully engages in the most tender embraces and talks with his wife Mollie, brought to life by Caitriona Balfe who is just as entranching as her male counterparts, especially when opposite of Bale. Another highlight of the film is the always surprising young man, Noah Jupe who is an actor well beyond his years.
At times the approach to the story can feel a bit formulaic but it’s the cast, the characters, the humanity on display, and the always gripping racing scenes that elevate Ford v Ferrari beyond the simple description of just another biopic with halfway decent actors. With strong cinematography as the icing on top, this becomes one of the best, most entertaining films of 2019. It is, often all at once, poignant and whimsical and most certainly always authentic. While the focus may be mostly on Shelby and Miles, and understandably so, the film never loses focus of those around them, the ones always worried about the fateful day when the bent metal and fire consumed wreckage just might belong to Shelby or Miles. Inevitability has a way of always coming true, despite best efforts to the contrary.
Through a combined effort of cast and crew, Ford v Ferrari lives up to its many moving parts managing a frequent tonal shift between the intimate relationships of these characters and the more intense moments of racing at redline, and continuing forward anyway, consequences be damned. It’s a celebration of the obsessed and their headstrong way of thinking, acting, speaking, and ultimately just living.
Rated PG-13 For: some language and peril
Runtime: 152 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Noah Jupe
Directed By: James Mangold
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4.5/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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