Adapting a real life character on-screen is never an easy thing; the questions immediately bubble up to the surface whether who is being portrayed on-screen is being done with accuracy and authenticity. Exaggerating personality traits to extremes or caricatures of their real-life counterpart is also something to consider – then there’s the headache of making sure the character actually remains interesting. Many filmmakers opt to just take certain personality aspects of the real-life person and build off that – but here, with these two talents? They require no watering down.
James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari tackles the events surrounding Le Mans 66’ as Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) take on the dominating presence of Ferrari in one of the world’s most famous car races. This film finds two unlikely personalities (and unlikely actors) working together to build a car that can take down the legendary team Ferrari.
Matt Damon plays the role of Shelby, an all-American man with a soft heart and an imagination that drives forward a vision of victory. He’s a man who wants to stay true to his word while doing what he believes is right – a trait that brings him a lot of push-back. But Shelby’s stubborn personality is meager compared to the borderline unstable and snarky attitude of his friend Ken (Bale) – a cheeky Brit with a short temper and immeasurable skill behind the wheel. Both Shelby and Ken as characters work off each other, like pistons in synchronous rhythm – both Bale and Damon embody these characters – respectfully representing the charm of their real life counterparts. Christian Bale again shows dedication akin to that of Ken Miles himself, throwing himself deep within the character – shouting improvised Brit slang and other hilarious slurs that only further accentuate his characters unique personality. Damon takes a more mild route, aiming to be the man that you could always rely on. Despite both actors playing such great parts, Bale takes the edge.
What we’re provided throughout this film’s 152-minute runtime is both high octane thrills and a slow burn dissection of its characters. Ford v Ferrari is a film that pays just as much respect for the moving parts of its well-oiled machine as it does for the person behind the wheel; its characters. What we’re left with is a film that feels a lot like a summer road trip that could keep on going – as the film’s impeccable pacing provides consistent engagement, even from the typically drabbier scenes. While Ford v Ferrari as a whole is a fairly tense film with movement behind it, you can’t help but feel the whole film is on cruise control, whether it’s due to its charming characters or consistent tone, this is a film that remains as emotional and empathetic as it does “fast” and “bad-ass”.
The filmmaking quality of this film is potent during its racing scenes. James Mangold tackles this film with an authentic approach by using real cars and places Damon and Bale behind the wheel (although in quick cuts and low speed). The film contains an extensive amount of crashes and explosions that feel completely real by limiting CGI and blending it only when needed. The camera smoothly glides around these cars in action and keeps steady during high-intensity moments.
Ford V Ferrari uses lighting superbly in its quieter scenes by being able to capture intimacy in its realistic sets and making the high-speed car action perceptible during its night-time sequences. Marco Beltrami’s score injects each racing scene with energy that enhances the immersive experience and the sound design is exceptional, realistic and excellently blends each sound together in perfect synchronization. These technical attributes help the film not be just sensory overload but more-so a combination of impressive film-making techniques and dedication to practicality.
James Mangold takes care as he approaches this story and successfully balances all the elements to ensure quality storytelling is supported by energetic and practical high-speed action. Ford v Ferrari is a film that takes time to explore its characters and the relationships, which ultimately results in more engrossing and compelling car racing sequences where the stakes feel grander. Ford V Ferrari is not groundbreaking but all the moving parts work well in conjunction with each other – activating high-speed auto action sequences that are as compelling as its human drama.