From the director of Logan comes a full-throttled, high-octane & adrenaline-fuelled sports drama that recounts the rivalry between Ford & Ferrari for the dominance at Le Mans endurance race in 1966. Ford v Ferrari (also known as Le Mans ’66) is no doubt stylishly filmed & furiously paced but it also travels a rather safe route for the most part and isn’t as memorable as its genre’s finest offerings.
The story concerns American car designer Carroll Shelby who is enlisted by Ford Motor Company to build a revolutionary race car that could challenge & defeat the dominant Ferrari racing team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. Shelby teams up with racing veteran Ken Miles to make the impossible possible but faces corporate interference & several other obstacles in his quest to realise his mission.
Directed by James Mangold, the film centres its plot on Shelby & Miles while rivalry between two corporations plays second fiddle to their stories. The racing segments are plentiful and majority of them are shot with kinetic flair. But the attempt to make the drama all macho & cool does not always deliver the best results as it dilutes the seriousness the story was aiming for, and seems as if it’s trying too hard to grab the viewers’ attention.
Nevertheless, the relation between man & machine is captured with purity, and that romance remains intact throughout its runtime. Instead of two companies battling it all out for the championship crown, the story derives its conflict from the disputes & disagreements that arises within Ford’s racing crew & corporate executives. It does keep the interest alive but the dramatic portions do not pack the same grip & punch that the racing scenes do.
Production design team does well to recreate the 1960s setting by filling the frames with era-appropriate set pieces & automobiles. The energetic camerawork captures the racing sequences with thrilling intensity, and makes sure its momentum is never lost. Editing unfolds the drama at a breezy pace yet there are several scenes in the final print that the story could’ve done without. As for the background score, it is not very effective and fails to enrich or uplift the viewing experience.
What does help the film immensely are the sincere performances from Matt Damon & Christian Bale who are brilliant both individually as well as when they are sharing the screen. Damon is downright focused & serious in his rendition of Carroll Shelby while Bale embodies Miles in ways only he can, and it is another fantastic performance from the method actor. Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts & Josh Lucas also deliver good inputs in supporting roles, especially the latter who manages to be despicable without even trying.
On an overall scale, Ford v Ferrari is a competently crafted & technically polished biopic that narrates the real-life events with gusto despite going a bit overboard at times, and is a downright thrilling, incessantly fun & wildly entertaining fare that will satisfy both racing enthusiasts & casual filmgoers. What unfortunately prevents this film from cementing its spot amongst the finest examples of its kind is the limitation it imposes upon itself by not taking the high risk, high reward approach. Steered by solid performances from Damon & Bale, Ford v Ferrari is nonetheless worth a shot.