In “Ford v Ferrari,” the drool-worthy beauties are the real draw. No, I’m not talking about the two hunky leads, I’m talking about the cars. Those who love the sound of a roaring engine and the curves of a sports car will find plenty to like. Even those who aren’t racing enthusiasts will likely find satisfaction in this well-told, well-crafted, crowd-pleasing story.
So why did I find it to be so disappointing?
First, the entire movie feels formulaic, dated, and uninspiring. The true story of visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the spirited British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) is oversimplified in an easy-to-swallow cinematic pill. There’s such an interesting history that surrounds these two men and their determination to build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company. Honcho Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) threw money and resources at the duo in an attempt to undress Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) and his dominating vehicles by beating him at the famed Le Mans race in 1966.
The movie doesn’t offer a satisfactory explanation as to why Ford was at such odds with Ferrari. Yes, the Italian refused his offer to buy the struggling car company, but that hardly seems like a reason to make Ferrari the real villain. Is the Italian company evil because they win races and build superior cars? That’s simply not a good reason to dislike someone. In fact, the film makes Ford look like a real jackass, and it’s hard to root for a jerk. Too bad the film is designed to encourage audiences to cheer for Ford simply because they’re the American power corporation.
The screenplay isn’t deep nor challenging, and is filled with platitudes like “you can’t win a race by committee.” Even worse, it seems like 95% of Bale’s dialogue consists of “bloody hell.” (Can somebody do a count of the times he utters that in the movie? It has to reach double-digits in the first hour alone).
The performances aren’t awards-worthy either. Bale’s turn is a highly exaggerated, distracting lesson in how to clear all subtlety from the room. Damon isn’t much better, as he spends his time perfecting his best growling Tommy Lee Jones impersonation (but still manages to out-act Bale).
Giving credit where it’s due, the race scenes reach technical perfection, with thrilling stunt driving and skilled editing that will delight fans of motorsports. The sound is phenomenal (see it on the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find). The film is well made, but the final execution is lackluster.
One thing “Ford v Ferrari” does is cement the fact that “Rush” is still the best racing movie ever. It’s disappointing because the story on which it’s based is so interesting, but this too-straightforward retelling of history is too mainstream, too dull, and squanders a considerable opportunity.