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Ford V. Ferrari – Review

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“Ford v. Ferrari” is the feature film re-telling of one of the classic battles of automotive racing history – American icon Ford’s clash with Italian icon Ferrari’s domination of what was then one of the world’s most popular races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The film stars Matt Damon in the lead role of American automotive designer Carroll Shelby, who maneuvers to get British driver Ken Miles [played by Christian Bale] into the cockpit of the Ford GT-40 as they attempt to break the stranglehold Ferrari and their P4 have on the rest of the world in the mid-1960s. Although Ford tangled with Ferrari in numerous Le Mans races throughout the decade, the film focuses specifically on the events leading up to the 1966 version of the race.

Damon as Shelby successfully recruits Bale as Miles to drive the GT-40 in the race but is consistently stymied by both Henry Ford II [aka “The Deuce”, played by Tracy Letts] and Ford’s top marketing lackey, Leo Beebe [played by Josh Lucas]. Jon Bernthal receives a supporting role in the film as Lee Iacocca, who was then a vice president at Ford before later becoming the CEO at Chrysler.

While all five actors mentioned above – Damon, Bale, Letts, Lucas and Bernthal – perform their various parts with aplomb, the critical racing segments of the film are the real centerpiece. Attention to the details of the 1966-era race are recreated reasonably well within the context of the scenario. The focus of the film is on the Ford side of the race and the Ford GT-40 is depicted going through its various phases of production – with all the requisite arguments over this and that – while the background drama circling around who will drive it in the race, adds to that focus and strengthens it considerably.

There are only a few tangents taken away from the race and they are mostly understandable – Miles’ relationships with both his wife and son as well as the interaction among the Ford executives as they jockey for position to receive the most favor from the Deuce – but the glaring omission is any background drama from Shelby and he had plenty, not counting his seven divorces.

Despite that notable exception and along with a few other quibbles – such as Ford executives showing up for a meeting with Ferrari head honcho, Enzo Ferrari, in Mercedes limousines instead of Ford-owned Lincoln Continentals – the movie was generally devoid of momentum-killing forays into side relationships and, for the most part, stayed true to the target – what led up to the 1966 Ford-Ferrari Le Mans race. ASN awards the film an 89 out of 100 and there should be no surprise if there are some Academy Awards available for them to win in a few months.

About Alex Bean

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