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"FORD V FERRARI"
(2019) (Matt Damon, Christian Bale) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A race car designer and his engineer racer set out to develop a car that will defeat the Ferrari team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
PLOT:
It's the 1960s and Ford Motor Company CEO Henry Ford II (TRACY LETTS) wants to shake things up to reinvigorate sales. With that order, one of his execs, Lee Iacocca (JON BERNTHAL), proposes that they need to build sexier cars to appeal to a younger generation of drivers. When Senior Vice-President Leo Beebee (JOSH LUCAS) complains that will take years, Lee proposes then that they buy financially struggling Ferrari and thus instantly have possession of desirable sports cars.

But Ferrari's owner pulls out of the deal at the last minute and insults Henry and his company in general. As a result, and essentially willing to write a blank check, Henry orders that they build a racecar that will defeat the Ferrari team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Enter legendary race car driver Carroll Shelby (MATT DAMON) whose racing days were cut short by medical concerns and who now designs race cars with his right-hand man, Phil Remington (RAY McKINNON), and their small team.

The man who Carroll wants to join them is engineer Ken Miles (CHRISTIAN BALE) whose auto shop has just been seized by the IRS, much to the concern of his wife, Mollie (CAITRIONA BALFE), and their son, Peter (NOAH JUPE). Carroll knows Ken is the right man not only to design the car, but also to be its driver, something that doesn't sit well with Leo who doesn't think the opinionated Brit is the right image for their company. Nevertheless, and with the big race coming up, Carroll and Ken work together to design a car that will put the Ferrari team and their cars to shame.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
A number of years back I attended an Internet marketing conference in the U.S. that drew attendees from all around the world. One guy in particular was from Spain and I distinctly recall him saying he had been excited to attend, not only to network and learn from the presenters, but also because it gave him the opportunity to rent and drive a car he'd long heard about, the Ford Mustang. Alas, and while I didn't ask for any explanatory details back then, I distinctly remember his brutally honest and to-the-point review: "It's crap."

Thinking back to that, I wonder where his initial, pre-rental impression had come from, and now that I've seen the buddy race car movie "Ford v Ferrari," I might have the answer. The terrific drama depicts the efforts of the Ford Motor Company to build and enter a race car into the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966, all to defeat the heavily favored Ferrari team.

I wasn't old enough at the time to remember anything about that, but I'm guessing it was much bigger news in Europe than America, thus likely drawing the attention of my fellow conference attendee who, I'm guessing, might have expected parts of the Shelby Cobra to have trickled down to the Mustang he was driving.

That aside, I loved every aspect of this offering from director James Mangold who works from a screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller and continue his winning streak of intriguing, engaging and entertaining films that have included the likes of "Logan," "Walk the Line" and "Cop Land" among others. A film that will work for both racing aficionados and those who only appreciate cars for getting them from point A to point B and back again, the offering clocks in at two and a half hours but feels much leaner -- and speedier -- than that.

The film opens with intros to the main characters that tell us everything we need to know. Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is seen catching on fire during the refueling of his car and brushes that off, only to later be sidelined by doctor's orders. Ken Miles (Christian Bale, once again completely disappearing into his role, albeit not quite to the "who's that" extent of playing Dick Cheney last year) is a Brit who runs an auto shop and has no problem telling a customer the problem with his performance car is the customer himself.

Meanwhile, over at the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford's namesake grandson (Tracy Letts) wants to shake things up, thus allowing exec Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) to suggest they make sexier cars for the baby boom generation that's now come of driving age. Don't rattle the cages senior vice-president Leo Beebee (Josh Lucas) poo-poos the idea, saying it will take years. Accordingly, Lee suggests they instead purchase financially ailing Ferrari, but its prickly founder not only rebuffs the takeover offer at the last minute, but also insults everything related to Ford.

All of which results in Henry wanting to beat Ferrari so badly at his own game that he offers unlimited resources and money to Shelby to design such a car that could win at Le Mans. Carroll knows the only grease monkey turned driver for the job is Ken, something (and someone) who doesn't jive with the Ford public image, at least according to Leo and layer after layer of bureaucracy.

And thus the stage is set for the dramatic conflict to flow forth from that set-up, and it does so in exciting and engaging ways. For not only does the film feature enough thrilling "you are there" racing scenes to satisfy gear-heads, but it's also a terrific film about friends working toward a common goal and butting heads with corporate America in the process.

I have no idea how the guy I previously mentioned will respond to the film, but for anyone who likes terrific acting accompanying engaging storytelling -- not to mention fast cars -- "Ford v Ferrari" should just be your speed...and then some. It was for me and I rate it a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 6, 2019 / Posted November 15, 2019


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