Consider me late to the party on this one and what a shame too. Ford v Ferrari has been raved about all year as being one of the best movies of the year. I have been well aware of the fantastic response by critics and audiences and have been excited to check this movie out, but like many movies from last year, I’m a bit late to the party. I finally got a chance to get around to watching this movie and I’m so glad I did. Not only was it the cast of our two leads in Matt Damon and Christian Bale, but also the addition of James Mangold as director who was coming off of Logan. This movie has been an all-time high for me on an excitement and anticipation level, so there was a lot for it to live up to.
Under the superb and master direction of James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari is easily one of the best movies of 2019. In all aspects of film like I said for Knives Out, this movie absolutely masters them in such a beautiful way. It is the ultimate “dad movie”. I’m not saying there aren’t women who will like this movie because I’m sure there are, but this is really the ultimate “bring your dad to the movies” movie. It’s an absolute blast full of fun, heart, and fast cars.
James Mangold crafts the story of Ford vs Ferrari when Henry Ford II wanted to make a race car that could outperform Ferrari and win the La Mans 24 hour race. It’s a story that hooks you from the very beginning and while the movie is a bit long coming in at around two hours and thirty minutes, Mangold manages to direct it expertly to keep you invested from start to finish without losing focus or getting bored. He has a great vision in how he chooses to present the scenes especially every moment where we see the cars at top speed. It’s no easy feat to capture the cars in action as well as he does. He does it perfectly in a way that always builds up the adrenaline and gets you pumped along with the driver.
Outside of the expert direction, we also have our two lead actors in Damon and Bale. Damon plays Carroll Shelby and Bale plays Ken Miles. Creator and driver, these two have perfect on screen chemistry and their characters play off each other in every scene they have together. They have a friendship that you can relate to with someone in your life. They have a relationship that only they truly understand, but it’s because of how much they care for each other that they know what each other is feeling and thinking and that’s what makes their moments so special.
We care for both characters and we root for them against every moment of adversity. I also love the dynamic of them both being opposites in so many ways while also being so similar when it comes to one thing they truly share a passion for. When we meet them there’s a distinct difference between who these characters are whether it be Miles and his rough look, dirty clothes, and care free attitude or Shelby with his clean cut, perfect clothes or more caring attitude. They both come from different perspectives of life and how they are as themselves that makes the great friendship unlikely but that much more satisfying when it works.
The character arcs that they go through works well with how we are introduced to them through the start of the film. As I said, they both come from what you would consider being different perspectives on life and by the end of it they both flip while still remaining who they are at heart. They both do things that are out of character for them, but they do it with reason and out of true heart that doesn’t change who they are, but rather builds on who they have been and will continue to be. I appreciate the subtle arc and change that they go through that I didn’t realize until sitting down to review this movie.
This movie works because of the amazing direction and the world class performances, but a lot of this movie doesn’t work if the cars and the races aren’t believable enough. I’m not sure to what extent special effects or CGI was used on the cars or races, but it must be a testament to how expertly they handled everything about this movie. In the back of my mind I know that not every scene uses real cars, but the effects are so great and sharp that I can’t tell where fantasy and reality split. Because of that, the movie is able to show some truly impressive racing sequences.
Now that I really sit and think about it, there really aren’t any bad moments in this film at all. I would say that the only downside as I mentioned before is the very long runtime, but it can’t count all that much when you don’t even realize that it’s as long as it is. The story is perfect and for someone who didn’t know anything about it before, it was awesome and engaging. The performances were awards worthy and world class on every level. The direction was flawless by a guy who seems to be on an incredible streak with his latest two films, and this movie has some of the best racing scenes in cinema. It pulls all of this together to give a movie that proves to be not only one of the best movies of last year, but one of the most fun and well-rounded movies of the year.
There were high expectations for me going into this movie, and anytime there are high expectations, there’s plenty of room for disappointed. On many occasions in 2019, the movies fell hard on disappointment, but this was one of the few movies that ultimately lived up to expectations and exceeded them. The may be tied for my favorite movie of 2019 with Knives Out, but there’s no question that it’s one of the best films of the year. If you don’t like cars then you probably won’t like this much, but for the most part I can’t recommend this movie enough for anyone. Especially my dad.