Directed by James Mangold, who has an up and down resume that includes both Logan and The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma and Knight and Day, Ford v Ferrari is a new sports drama that follows the exploits of Ken Miles, a devil-may-care race car driver and Carroll Shelby, former driver and automotive visionary. Led by two excellent performances by stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale, Ford takes the win this weekend as one of my top 20 or 25 of the year.
Watch It: If you want great acting, state-of-the-art racing sequences that thrill, a colorful tone, and a glimpse under the hood of the largest family-controlled company in the world.
Skip It: If you want a more indie film style towards content and camera work and a thrill-free movie about the auto industry.
For much of the story, Ford plays just as run-of-the-mill as the cars that Ford pumped out on any ordinary day over the last century. At the same time, and at two and a half hours, it never slogs, bores, or comes to a halt. The screenwriting team has crafted a substantial story that is kept buoyant by both Damon, and especially Bale.
In a role that is perfectly cast for his temperament, Bale plays a British driver who’s always on a short fuse. This isn’t to say he’s a grump throughout; his character Ken Miles is also quite joyful and close to his family. It’s Bale that arguably is the best thing about Ford v Ferrari. Damon, in addition, is really just as great. Yet his character, by default, lends to a more supervisory and observing role.
As mentioned, Ford plays fairly formulaic for not all, but much of the story. Everything necessary is there for a well-executed story, but nothing pops or blows one away. This would be entirely true if it wasn’t for Mangold’s incredible direction towards each thrilling racing sequence. If it feels unremarkable off the race track, his direction really zips like a well-oiled machine on the track. Every angle, sound, and minimalist pulsing of music, then bolstered by Bale’s excellence all make for a great film that both enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts of the racing world will greatly enjoy. With both laughs and tears that many will have, Ford v Ferrari makes for a great addition to the Mangold resume.
Zimm Score: 7.8/10