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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 24, 2019


mattb damon and christian bale in FORD V. FERRARI

‘FORD V FERRARI’ is a racing movie about two men, Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles, both racers, and about two car companies, Ford and Ferrari. It’s based on the book “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans” by A.J. Bairne. Set in 1966, when pro car racing was at its zenith, we’re sure Director James Mangold (“Wolverine”, “Logan”) took a lot of artistic liberties in telling the story of the Ford Motor Company’s historic first win over its fierce Italian rival, Ferrari, at France’s famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race which was filmed in 1971 in the movie “Le Mans” starring the late Steve McQueen.

The film centers on Shelby, an American racer and automotive designer who is shown retiring from racing at the start of the film due to a heart problem that caused him to be popping pills all throughout the movie, and Miles, a WWII veteran and British champion driver who moved to America in the 50s and has the reputation of being recalcitrant.

Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is the head of one of the biggest companies in the world and he’s not exacvtly satisfied with the current state of the car company founded by his grandfather. A young hotshot executive, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), believes that Ford should sex up their image by connecting with the younger post-Baby Boomer generation.

Lee is the same visionary car executive who would successfully revive Chrysler in the 80s and write a best selling autobiography in 1984.

It is Lee who suggests to Ford that they should buy the Italian car company that’s the current leader in racing, Ferrari. But Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), the owner, insults Ford’s emissaries and opts to sell his company to another Italian car owner, Agnelli of Fiat. This hurts Ford’s pride and he becomes very determined to beat Ferrari on the race track.

His men then get the services of Shelby to design their own racing car. Shelby then gets Miles to be their driver. Ford’s assistant, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), is against Miles because he is a non-conformist and can be difficult. Beebe acts as the villain here who repeatedly tries to put down Shelby and Miles, but it only makes us viewers all the more side with the two main protagonists and root for them.

Matt and Christian show solid chemistry as two very different men who team up for a common goal. Shelby can be easy going while Miles is so intense. There is a scene where they are shown engaging in a fist fight (not sure if this really happened but it makes for a good movie) just outside the house of MIles and his wife just pulls up a chair to watch them let off steam.

Other important characters in the film are Caitriona Balfe (of the hit time travel TV series, “Outlander”, making an impressive debut here on the big screen) as Miles’ wife, Mollie; Noah Jupe as Peter, Miles’ young son (his final scene with Matt Damon towards the film’s end is so touching); and Ray McKinnon as Phil, Shelby’s most trusted engineer friend. The acting is consistently good all throughout.

Matt is splendid as a Shelby, a man of integrity who has to give up racing because of his heart ailment. He later fights against the political machinations of their opponents for what he thinks is right in building a world class competitive car that will defeat Ferrari. Christian gets the more endearing role as a family man with an amazing talent in a dangerous sport that can be fraught with accidents and sudden death.

MIles could have won first place in the 1966 Le Mans race but the annoying Leo Beebe asked him to wait for the other Ford cars so they can all be shown crossing the finish line together. It was his co-drivers then who were declared as the winners due to some technicality and this robbed Miles the unique achievement of winning the Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans races all in the same year.

What a pity since history shows that only a few months later, Miles perished in a tragic accident while test driving a highspeed sports car that flipped, broke into pieces, ejecting him and killing him instantly. He was only 47 years old.

The whole film is very well put together. The drama is so involving and the racing sequences are a blast, all spectacularly mounted. Director James Mangold (who has an eclectic filmography with a romcom like “Kate & Leopold”, the thriller “Identity” and a western like “3:10 to Yuma”) captures the suspenseful climax, the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race that pits Ford versus Ferrari quite perfectly, excitingly shot and edited with the cameras tight and close as they transfer back and forth between the rival teams and cars careening on the race track.

All in all, it’s an entertaining buddy movie about men striving to achieve perfection in their chosen field.