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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Ford v Ferrari


Ford v Ferrari -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Logan)  brings an immersive, kinetic style that keeps the lengthy Ford v Ferrari (runtime 2:29) from overstaying its welcome.  Throw in two dynamic actors--Matt Damon as race car developer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as mechanic/driver Ken Miles--to supercharge the charisma, and we get one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.

It's the mid-1960s, and Ford Motor Company is losing out to competitor Chevrolet in both quality and style.  With the baby boomer generation entering its car-buying years, Ford marketing manager Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) pitches a plan to CEO Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to shed the company's stodgy image by making sportier models and developing a racing division.  A scheme to buy out reigning LeMans champ Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) ends up insulting both owners.  Ford orders his managers to develop a team that will beat the Italians, and Iacocca approaches Shelby to head that team, promising him carte blanche.  Taking Iacocca at his word, Shelby approaches old friend Ken Miles to drive as well as help with the design.  Unfortunately, Shelby and Miles, race car experts who don't suffer fools, along with pit boss Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon) and the rest of the design and testing crew have to deal with Ford suits who have huge egos and small minds.  It's bad enough they have to go against Ferrari, but they also have to deal with the nastiest, most self-aggrandizing of the bunch, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), Ford's right-hand man.  He undermines Miles at every turn because of a brutally honest assessment Ken gives regarding one of Beebe's automotive babies.

As much as FvF is a formulaic racing yarn--will the plucky Davids overcome the unbeatable Goliath?--it is, at heart, a story about relationships, both human and socio-economic class.  Carroll Shelby was a tough former military test pilot whose bad heart betrays his own racing career.  He recognizes much of himself, and then some, in Ken Miles, the WWII D-Day tank driver for whom racing was life, and cars were his passion.  For all of his maverick ways, Ken is a loving father to son Peter (Noah Jupe) and is perfectly matched with his wife Mollie (Caitriona), the only person Ken truly fears.  Shelby and Miles work together like hand in glove, two self-made working-class men tempered like steel.  They are blue-collar heroes whose industry and ingenuity line the pockets of capitalists who hold the delusion that they did it themselves--and happily take the credit.  Finally, it's about the relationship between humans and the automobile, and that may be the most irrational relationship of all.

Mangold goes the extra mile (pardon the pun) to show what's at stake during a race--the stress on the car, the danger to the driver.  No wide pans or overhead shots that depersonalize the race, making the cars look like toys that fit in grooves.  He sets the cameras on the doors, the fenders, the bumpers, inside the vehicle, so 200 mph feels like it.  Screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller provide the typical buddy humor and success-story sturm und drang, but they also bring colorful lingo from both Shelby's Texas and Miles' England as well as technical jargon that intrigues us even as it loses us. Marco Beltrami's and Buck Sanders' pulse-pounding soundtrack is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler's "Speedway at Nazareth."  Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael brings the grease gun heroism of Shelby and Miles racetrack world in sharp contrast with the slick, barren corporate office suites of Ford Motors.  But it is the seamless film editing by Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt that makes the lengthy film fly.  This, along with other technical categories provide the best bet for awards.
8.5 out of 10

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