You may have never heard of Ken Miles or the battle between Ford and Ferrari. If not, that’s okay since there are plenty of people (including myself) who hadn’t heard anything about him or the rivalry that existed between the two motor vehicle juggernauts. Well, if you’re interested in learning more, Ford v Ferrari is a good place to start. It’s also a good place to see some fine acting and storytelling.
Ford finds itself facing a bit of a crisis as they hope to take their business to another level. With that in mind, a plan is devised to gain more credibility by improving their standing in the world of auto racing. To do that, they enlist the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), an American automotive designer who they know can give them a shot. The only problem for them is he recruits Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a fearless British driver known just as much for his temper as he is for his excellent racing skills.
With this being a film built around racing, you’re probably assuming that it’s going to include some serious intensity. Well, it does and it’s mostly presented in the way you’d probably expect. Predictably, most of it comes from the racing itself.
Watching this stuff as someone who didn’t know anything about the actual story at the center of it makes it more intriguing. You know something’s going to happen, but you don’t know what and you don’t know how. Over the course of these scenes, this keeps you glued to your seat as things only get better and more intense as the races get bigger and more important.
One thing that I didn’t anticipate was there being so much comedy. I expected some, but I didn’t think it would be so heavily relied on. Almost from start to finish, the jokes are put on display. In many cases, the comedy hits some legitimate high notes that add to the overall proceedings that are otherwise somewhat safe as far as its storytelling.
The brand of comedy that we get is the kind that we receive based on the characters, their personalities, and their circumstances. Doing it this way gives it that organic feel and never feels out of place since it blends in so well with everything else. You can say that this is also why this will feel like such an accessible film for people regardless of if they’re into racing or not.
To ride along with the comedy and the intense racing, there’s also some political strife going on behind the scenes with these characters as well. This part of the film is created with a blend of comedy and tension. Combined, all of this is used to construct a smooth and balanced picture that works in an earnest way to help us reach our destination.
To get us there, the cast does its part as well. In spite of the focus being mostly on the two main guys, it takes a team effort to really build a good sense of chemistry. The leader of the pack to some degree is Matt Damon. The movie begins with him and uses his character as a way to get us involved with everything we’re about to see.
Overall, he delivers a fine performance, but he could have helped himself out by working on creating a more consistent southern accent. In the opening scenes, he sounds almost exactly like Tommy Lee Jones. However, he’s unable to keep that up and moves back and forth between his real voice and a looser version of an accent that might be heard in some of the more southern parts of the United States.
Although Damon adds to his series of mostly noteworthy performances, Bale shines the most as Ken Miles, the eccentric British auto racer that you may have never heard of. Needless to say, Bale’s performance is top-notch. He really gets into this character and seems to enjoy it. Because of this, I can see him at least being in the conversation for a few acting awards.
Although Damon is the lead, you’d likely succeed in arguing that Bale’s Ken Miles is the backbone of Ford v Ferrari. He’s given the most depth and the most personal parts of the film. This makes room for him to be the spiritual center of most of what we see when talking about the non-business related stuff. To achieve this, they put a good bit of focus on his personal life as a husband and father.
As for Damon’s Carroll Shelby, I don’t recall them ever talking about his personal life at all. Looking into that part of his life, I can completely understand why seeing as this is a PG-13 movie. Plus, trying to fit some of that stuff in would have required them to “stretch the truth” more since there’s a lot to unpack with him. Of course, this would have also lengthened a movie that’s already over two and a half hours.
With all that said, Ford v Ferrari is a fairly well-rounded picture that gives its viewers a chance to get to learn a little about a few people they may not otherwise hear about. If you’re going to complain about anything, it’ll probably be the length. It’s a little long, but other than that, you may have a difficult time finding too many negatives even if you come out of the film not loving it as a whole.
Director: James Mangold
Film Length: 153 minutes
Release Date: November 15, 2019
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
- Score - 7.5/107.5/10