‘Ford v Ferrari’ Movie Review: The Fast and the Ferrarious

Ford v Ferrari tells the story of how the Ford GT40 challenged Ferrari’s dominance in the prestigious international Le Mans race. History might spoil who the victor is but that doesn’t diminish any of the thrills to be found in this movie. It’s the human drama of the race that makes it the fastest, most furious movie of the year. 

Ford v Ferrari: Whoever wins, we win

In the 1960s, Ford was a successful, reliable and prolific automaker. Lee Iococca (Jon Bernthal) floats the idea to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) that Ford should challenge Ferrari at Le Mans so they can be perceived as the best vehicle, even if they are more affordable than Enzo Ferrari’s product.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari
Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari | Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox

So they hire Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to build the Ford race car and Shelby hires Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to drive it. It’s a total ego contest for bragging rights, but quite a compelling and engaging one. Neither company’s well being depends on it, but it’s infectious getting caught up in the American working man (and it is all men) sticking it to the wealthy establishment.

You don’t need to know cars to love ‘Ford v Ferrari’

The two and a half hour film consists of their test drives and development, culminating in the 24 hour 1966 Le Mans race. There’s enough gearhead talk to convince a novice audience that Shelby and Miles know what they’re talking about, without crossing the line where they sound like hustlers trying to sell us undercoat. 

Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari | Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox

Director James Mangold captures the speed of these cars in test drives or passing cars on the road in the family station wagon. These characters live and breathe driving so it’s important the viewer feel that for at least two and a half hours. It’s all accomplished with camera and sound. Perhaps there were seamless visual effects to keep it safe, but Ford v. Ferrari isn’t depicting anything these amazing drivers couldn’t actually do.

The level of detail is subtle enough to convince the viewer they’re hanging out on the side of the road in the mid-’60s. There are enough cars from the ‘50s parked in lots and on the street, and a few drive back and forth while Miles and Shelby are doing drama.

‘Ford v Ferrari’ is fun

There is a sense of good old boy shenanigans. Ken Miles is a volatile personality. He doesn’t politic with executive like Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) but he can drive. Shelby will lock an executive in the office just long enough to win Ford over. He’ll also swipe stopwatches from Ferrari and drop lugnuts in their pit just to psyche them out. 

Josh Lucas in Ford v Ferrari | Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox

Winning Le Mans is a team effort, not just Shelby and Miles but the pit crew led by Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon). All the building and repairing scenes are the equivalent of a training montage in this vehicular sports movie. From the prep to the race, team Ford runs into a new problem and has to devise a solution. Some were historic innovations. Others were elbow grease. 

Caitriona Balfe and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari
Caitriona Balfe and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari | Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox

Ken’s wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) pushes back and contributes ideas, at least as much as the plot can fit her in. Mollie existed and if she was home watching the race with their son Peter (Noah Jupe), they can only embellish so much. 

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari
Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari | Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox

There won’t be a faster, more furious movie this year than this automotive rivalry, at least until Ford and Ferrari stop fighting when they realize they both have mothers named Martha. Fortunately, the story told in Ford v Ferrari has a more decisive, and historically backed, resolution but getting there is so much fun.