I wasn't sure how to think about Ford V. Ferrari. I will always, always be stoked for big budget movies about racing cars, but after spending the last year or so researching everything about the mid 60's Le Mans (including the legendary event 1966) for my own fictional novel about the race, I doubted that my thirst for accuracy would be enough to let me sit down and just enjoy the thing. But I walked out of the theater last night aware that this was the best competition movie I've ever seen – in terms of history, accuracy and production quality. And the producers did it by just sticking to the story of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles.
(This review contains quite a few spoilers for the movie. If you know the story, you know the story. People have been telling and doing ̵
The story about the film itself is admittedly a bit confused. It's more like a collage than a linear story: you get enough snippets and a sense of impression to get it, but if you know the story it's not massively coherent. This is one of those cases where audience members who are unfamiliar with the historical context will understand what is going on clearly – but if you have a more intimate knowledge, the story may feel missing.
The film begins with Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby as part of his 1959 Le Mans entry – exhausted, he runs through the depths in a foggy night, with headlights dancing over cracked pavement. It is a wonderful shot, which made the hair on my arms knit. Okay I thought, right there and there. This can be pretty damn good .
And that's it . Both Damon and Christian Bale come across as if they both have a ball in their roles that are very talented, snarky shitheads totally mad at racing, and it makes it fun as hell to watch. There's a lot of freedom with a bit of humor here (at one point, Miles criticizes Leo Beebe at the Mustang launch by saying, "I'd rather buy a Chevelle, and it's a damn awful car."), But that's fine. Sure, I doubt Shelby and Miles were discussing the Le Mans program at a restaurant. I doubt they had a wrestling match on the sidewalk. But that is probably in view of the characters we work with. It's the kind that makes you smile.
The acting is fantastic. While we may not know the tone about Ken Miles Bale comes off as the perfect fit – he is snarky, funny, a little bitchy, but most of all passionate. When Bale discusses with SCCA officials about the rulebooks, he, like Christian Bale, disappears and slides completely into the role. There was a very natural, credible meltdown between Miles as a softer family man at home with his wife and son to Miles as the hard-headed man who doesn't let Shelby believe that he will ever have control of the leadership at Ford. 19659003] Which brings us to Matt Damon. I'm completely honest when I say I'm not a Damon fan. But here I was actually so invested in the character he played that I forgot who played it. Damon's Shelby is a pain in the ass who's not afraid to tell it like it is when he knows he's right, which is exactly who the real Carroll Shelby was. As he struggles with his commitments to Ford and his promises to Miles, Damon's Shelby is honestly one of the more interesting character arcs in history.
The dynamics between Bale and Damon are great . The bond between them is believable, and you really feel that these are two guys who trust each other and care about each other but never say it exactly. They can kick each other's asses and then have a coke afterwards, and that makes sense. Both actors each do a good job of making the viewers care about the characters, but it is the two together that make the story so compelling.
The production is also wonderful. The GT40 test scenes really shine here, even more so than the competition (which I will come to a little later). The quality is sharp, although it retains some of the soft beauty you can expect from the era. I was glad I had an armrest in my place to pair up because there were many moments where the camera rollers just took their breath away. When Miles decides at the end of Le Mans & # 39; 66 that he will slow down and be a team player and let Ford get his finish line photo, the GT40 appears ahead with slowing down, growing less and less in the frame. It's one of those moments where, if you know what's going on, there's a good chance you can start tearing up just because of how it was filmed.
Probably the title Ford V. Ferrari is a little misleading because it's not really about Ford fighting against Ferrari as much as it is more Miles and Shelby V. The World. If you go into the movie and look for the technical complications that actually got Le Mans 1-2-3 to 1966, did the off-track fight which honestly kind of lifted the tension from the on-track fight, you will be disappointed. If you're looking for an in-depth exploration of Ferrari's end of things, forget it. If you hope for the full scale of Ford's massive operation, you won't. (Where was a reference to Holman Moody Ford's, which was really all I wanted from this movie; if anyone wants to make a documentary about that operation, I'm the first one to watch.) You Better to read AJ Baimes Go to Hell or watch the documentary The 24 Hour War if you are looking for a broader perspective.
At the end of the day, it's more a movie about people than it is anything else. It's about the Shelby American submarines compared to the capitalist behemoth that is Ford in an effort to work together enough to kick Ferrari's ass. But you know, nobody's going to buy a ticket to a movie about a guy they've probably never heard of.
By focusing on only Shelby and Miles, Ford V. Ferrari has actually had a chance to tell a complete story rather than making a shoddy attempt to cover too much land. Honestly, Shelby and Miles are the two most fascinating characters in the bunch, and these are the ones you actually skimp on. This is racers not just a bunch of wonderful guys in suits having meetings about things.
Now, I'm not going to say that the movie was absolutely perfect. Originally, I was rather skeptical of the fact that the racing sites were run on different tracks – but Road Atlanta did a very convincing set for Le Mans. It was Auto Club Speedway that really dropped the ball here.
If you are a racing fan, you will know that the Auto Club is not the Daytona it poses. And I mean, I wouldn't be so bothered … if they hadn't left the digital score. Not only did Daytona not have a score of points already in 1966, but it sure as hell would not have a digital LED pylon. This is one of those things that nobody will care about if they are not familiar with racing history – but it was really distracting if you did. Especially because it looked like they would have been a stand full of fans. They … probably could have grabbed that pylon. It wasn't distracting, incredibly horrible to the point where it ruined the movie, but it was a bit disappointing.
There were some other minor things. Lorenzo Bandini and Ken Miles who exchanged death glare in the middle of the race were a bit absurd. The Italians were all kinds of incompetent and stupid. The speedometer on the GT40 on the GT40 actually made me laugh. Smaller things, but still a bit horny.
I also had some pretty mixed feelings about the ending. While I thought Miles's deadly crash scene was elegantly handled – rather than any grotesque close-up, a distant shot showed Miles losing control of a brakes car followed by a dust cloud rising from the crash – I wasn't particularly fond of the fact that Miles & # 39 ; son was there watching it happen, or Phil Remington basically dismissed Shelby's feelings after the fact with something like, "sometimes they just don't get out of the car." It was a conversation Remington had with Peter Miles, Ken's son, earlier in the film – and it was something I was uncomfortable with when it was then used at Shelby, not re-used with Peter after the crash.
Other reviews of the movie call the end of the movie hollow and disappointing g. It's not my qualm here because that's … kind of the point. Ken Miles story is damn disappointing. You feel hollow. Miles was robbed, and he never had a chance to regain his title. My problem is that it was just a little bad to write. Peter Miles didn't really need to be there, and the theme of Remington and Shelby who comforted him before death was lost there.
That's where most of the frustration comes in here. There are some real historical details, which makes it all the more frustrating to lose other details in the battle. Miles, for example, was really in training at a time when it was an unusual thing to care about – and in some scenes, he is depicted in his training equipment after a run. But the film missed the opportunity to use the iconic quote "I've been fucked" after Miles got out of his car after Le Mans. There were narrative threads that were hinted at and then dropped.
My husband has said that these mishaps prevent the Ford V. Ferrari from being a good movie and instead make it a good movie. I do not agree. I still think it's fantastic. It's about as good as you'll get from a Hollywood movie. It has flaws, yes. But they are not really worried that you will hate it.
At the end of the day, it's a movie, not a documentary. You cannot expect full accuracy. But the producers did a damn good job with what they had and turned a great story into an equally good movie. In my eyes, it surpassed pretty much every other racing movie. Rush and Days of Thunder got nothin & # 39; on Ford V. Ferrari. Hollywood may have just figured out the formula for a really good motorsport movie.
And as far as the actual car races go, I will admit that it falls short of things like the Grand Prix or Le Mans but I also think that in has to a large extent to do with the fact that Ford V. Ferrari is so far away from the era where it is set. Le Mans had an absolutely terrible history, but the competition is so great that it makes up for it. Ford V. Ferrari's racing is usually just okay, but what history and historical accuracy is is the best I've seen so far.
Seriously. Go there and see it as soon as you can.