Review: Ford v Ferrari Gets it Right, Delivers on the Hype
If you are a car enthusiast it's not uncommon to feel embarrassed or maybe even betrayed by the way Hollywood portrays cars and motorsport in many of its films. There are technical errors galore, wild exaggerations and often downright laughable presentations of the stuff we love. Ford v Ferrari is different.
I went and saw the movie over the weekend and I'm happy to report that while it's not perfect, Ford v Ferrari is one of the best automotive-themed movies I've seen in a long time. It delivers period correct coolness, and fascinating story, beautifully shot driving sequences and a feeling of authenticity that is rare in movies these days.
As Henry Ford II says in the movie "this isn't the first time we've gone to war" referencing Ford's industrial efforts to help the allies win World War 2, but throughout the movie I couldn't help but think Ford v Ferrari feels as much like a war movie as it does a racing movie.
While there is a lot less at stake in trying to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the story plays out much like a war film in the way you see you see the story unfold from the very top of Ford's corporate leadership down to the engineers, builders and the drivers who climbed into the cars to do the dangerous work.
Being both a gearhead and a history buff, I was already familiar with the beats of the real life story that's portrayed in the movie. Prior to production of the film, the story had been covered in detail in the book Go Like Hell as well as in the documentary The 24 Hour War—both of which are highly recommended as supplementary material to the movie.
If there was any drawback to the film, it's that there isn't going to be quite as much suspense if you know how things played out in real life. Of course the same thing can be said for any film that is based on real life events, so that's not a knock against Ford v Ferrari specifically.
And even if you already know the ending, that doesn't make the movie any less enjoyable to take in. It's shot incredibly well, with a nice attention to detail and a lot of great mid 1960s fashion, music and of course the cars.
The race scenes themselves are shot incredibly well, with a nice mix of real life driving and computer generated effects. Needless to say, the Ford GT40 gets a massive amount of screen time and if you didn't dream of them before the movie, you certainly will after.
In something that would be completely unimaginable today, Shelby actually used the tarmac at LAX airport next to his race shop as testing area for his cars and these night time testing sequences are particularly beautiful
One of my favorite scenes though actually comes earlier in the movie when Ken Miles is racing a Shelby Cobra at Willow Springs in an SCCA event against drivers like Bob Bondurant and Dan Gurney. In this and in the movie's other racing scenes, the engine sounds alone make it worth the trip to your local movie theater.
The real story of Ford taking on Ferrari at Le Mans is wide-reaching and multi-faceted and it would be hard for any movie, even a two-and-half-hour one to to cover every aspect. So while the corporate strategy is covered, Ford v Ferrari focuses mainly on Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and his partner and race driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). And while he doesn't get a massive amount of screen time, Jon Bernethal is great in his role as Lee Iacocca.
Having two of Hollywood's best actors starring in the film meant Ford v Ferrari was going to have high expectations, and both actors deliver. Damon does a great job playing Shelby with his Texas attitude and Bale's portrayal of the outspoken Englishman Ken Miles makes it hard to imagine the same guy playing Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight films.
Yes, there are some technical nitpicks (we spotted some modern 17" wheels on one of the Daytona Coupes inside Shelby's LAX shop for example) and some story liberties taken for extra dramatic effect, but overall the movie more than meets expectations. It should be great watch even for people who aren't auto enthusiasts.
If you haven't yet seen it and want to experience a well-crafted, exciting and largely authentic take on one of the most interesting stories in motorsports history, do yourself a favor and go see Ford v Ferrari while it's on the big screen.
And if you want to see just how far the Ford's flagship performance machine has come, check out the new Ford GT MkII which was debuted this year at Goodwood.