Toronto 2019: Ford v Ferrari

Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V. FERRARI. Courtesy of TIFF

Ford v Ferrari is an exhilarating crowd-pleaser that should keep audiences on their seat in Ford’s quest to build a winning race car.

Race car driver-turned-car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British-born racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale) are racing legends.  We owe a great respect to their efforts in racing because without them, who knows what type of advances Ford would make.  Shelby had quit racing sometime prior due to health issues.  However, their story might never have happened if it weren’t for the financial issues with the Ford Motor Company.  Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) announces early on that Ford is going to go out of business.  The secret weapon comes in the form of future Chrysler CEO/Chairman Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal).  Iacocca passed away this past July.  Iacocca has his eyes on Ferrari and suggests that Ford pursue racing.

This brings us to Shelby.  The former driver had no choice but to quit racing due to health concerns.  Together, Shelby and Miles would help design a car to win the 1966 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.  The duo are constantly frustrated by Ford racing director Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas).  If Beebe had his way, Shelby American wouldn’t have anything to do with Ford.  Nor would Ken Miles have raced in France let alone Daytona.  Anyway, one of the best laughs in the film comes when Shelby takes Ford for a spin while locking Beebe in an office.  Let’s just say that it’s not going to be easy for a first-time rider at these speeds.  Ford’s face shows this and Letts is absolutely perfect with his facial reaction.

James Mangold is on a tear.  With a film resume that includes Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan, it’s hard to ignore the filmmaker.  When I learned that Mangold would direct Ford v Ferrari, it shot up to the top of my list.  Granted this also has to do with the decision to cast Christian Bale.  Bale can do nothing wrong in my book.  He’s one of the greatest working actors at the moment.  Where other actors have the ability to disappear in the role, Bale does more than this.  He will transform himself for the role!  This Matt Damon guy isn’t so bad himself.

Listen, I’m not a racing fan by any means whatsoever.  However, this did not stop me from being on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film. I didn’t even mind the 152 minute running time mostly because I didn’t even notice it!  My cap is tipped to the editing team of Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt.  Their work does not go unnoticed here.  It ought to be highly applauded because of the film’s run time.  Obviously, it’s exhilarating to watch cars race very fast on the screen.  This also speaks to the film’s pacing.  We’re clearly having too much fun watching the film!

Oscar-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael reteams with Mangold to collaborate on yet another film.  It isn’t just that the cinematography is top-notch here but racing scenes in general have to be among the toughest shoots in the world.  Cars have to be speeding north of 100 miles per hour!  Sometimes, one just has to sit back and wonder just how they shot it!

Whether you’re a racing lover or not, Matt Damon and Christian Bale help bring Ford v Ferrari home in an exhilarating thrill ride.

DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
SCREENWRITERS:  Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller
CAST:  Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon

Ford v Ferrari holds its Canadian premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Gala program. Twentieth Century Fox will release the film on November 15, 2019. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.