Review by Dan Skip Allen
Although movies about racing aren't particularly common in the sports film genre, there have been two in 2019: The Art of Racing in the Rain and Ford v Ferrari. The latter, having A-List stars and a big time director in James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari is more than just a movie about racing — it's a time capsule about this one moment in American sports history. And a damn good one at that.
Matt Damon portrays Carrol Shelby, race car driver turned race car designer and manufacturer. He is entrusted by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca to build a race car that can win the 24 Hours of LeMans. He enlists the best driver he knows to help him, Ken Miles, who is portrayed in the film by Christian Bale.
James Mangold has directed some great films in the past, including Logan and Walk the Line, but making this film might be his biggest accomplishment yet. The racing scenes are arguably the best in any racing movie ever, rivaling those in Ron Howard's film Rush. The placement of the camera in these scenes was astounding. He was able to show the cars breaking and shifting gears during the races, making the scenes feel all the more authentic. Having all these cars from that time period also lent a more realistic feel to the film.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale are two of the finest actors of their generation. They both give nuanced and relatable performances. Damon uses a southern accent, which seemed like it had the potential to be distracting. Bale has a lot of dialogue using his own cockney accent. However, these accents don't hide two of the best performances of the year — they accentuate them. This film owes itself to their great work
In addition Damon and Bale, Mangold assembled a great cast of actors to round out the cast. Among them are Jon Bernthal as the aforementioned Lee Iacocca, Josh Lucas as Leo Beebe, and Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe as Mollie Miles and Peter Miles. However, the best supporting actor in the film is Tracy Letts, who plays Henry Ford II. He gives a real solid performance. Letts is overdue for an Academy Award nomination, but his performance is good enough to even win.
Audiences may not know anything about this story heading into the film, but they will be floored by the racing scenes unlike any other that have been seen before and the top-notch performances. Mangold captured the time period perfectly, allowing everything came together to make Ford v Ferrari a very solid film about this one small moment in time.
Ford v Ferrari opens in theaters on November 15.