What car would you most want to drive? Maybe a car from a movie? You have lots of options to choose from: multiple versions of the Batmobile, the DeLorean time machine, the Jurassic Park jeep, the many Mad Max: Fury Road war machines, and now you can choose the very first racecar Ford built, depicted in the nonbeneficial Ford v Ferrari. Why’s this movie nonbeneficial you may ask? Well, once you know why, maybe you wouldn’t want to ride this fictionalized version of a real-life car after all; and no, it doesn’t make a difference how knowledgeable these filmmakers are about cars.
Basically, here’s the plot: Ford strategizes the business behind their cars against Ferrari and conclude that their best action to take is to build the greatest racecar ever, the world’s fastest automobile. They have ninety days to accomplish this task, as it will soon compete in the twenty-four-hours of Le Mans. At the surface, it sounds harmless, but it encourages rivalry from one end of a power-hungry corporation, one that lacks motivation in this retelling, besides… well… fame. You can tell the heart is in the rivalry because the “touching” scenes attempted, such as one between a father and son, fail to be so. It doesn’t help that neither of the leads are likable, seeing how their idea of brotherly bonding is wrestling and throwing punches in a public space. There are details that try to spark some sympathy between their relationship, such as one framed wrench, but the rough worldview remains.
Yet director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line) manages to film the cars well to convey the impact of their crashes; the camera sits down low, usually on a GoPro, glancing up toward the cars; a car turning a hard curve loses a hubcap; a car door gets stuck open; with each sequence of rubber on pavement, you lean on the edge of your seat.
While the details of the immersion into the racetrack are present, 20th Century Fox did miss a super important detail that renders all that faulty: ethnic diversity. Only White people get speaking parts, and even they are nothing but stereotypes of themselves; White American power is flaunted by a shot of a celebrity flying a silver plane for a grand entrance. Meanwhile, European cultures are subjected to pathetic imitation; Christian Bale has zero chemistry with the actress playing his wife, probably because of their fake Birmingham dialects; an Italian boss has an overdone accent as he sits in an antagonistic chair. These bad images, more than anything else, will shut off many Americans from learning more about the real story. If they were to learn the real story, they would categorize Hollywood’s disrespect toward Europe as something that needs to be stressed about.
There are great character moments from these stereotyped characters, such as the wife driving fast, but none of them compensate for the poor writing, hence why the details work to make this movie at least tolerable. The edit transition of Matt Damon’s red car cutting to a toy red car is a cute little detail; he always chews his jaw, angrily gnawing on conversational meat, deep down preferring to hop back into his toy red car. Alongside the cool use of airplane lights on the runway that blow out streaks onto the blackness, Mangold does well with directing like a pro despite the little content he’s given. Thanks to his vision, most of the actors give good performances, particularly from those who will be ignored by the Oscars. But Mangold more than anything else succeeds in bold framing compositions, especially when staging what happens before the racetrack sequences. Another memorable moment is when Mr. Ford II rides the new racecar’s passenger seat, you’ll laugh then suddenly cry, until you later learn via research that this never happened in real life.
Yes, it’s unfortunate, many glossed over big details restrain any purpose from making itself apparent besides a nostalgic time period. It wants to merge countries, but since the overly safe script negatively depicts the media on both ends, the attempt flops. Remember in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when a bunch of guys stole the Ferrari of Cameron’s dad? It happened under broad daylight, but the high stakes were still tangible. Nothing in this more recent movie with a Ferrari can make you relate super easily.
Now, for a little activity: Imagine that Steven Spielberg’s Duel truck ran at Le Mans. How do you think that could turn out? Well, you would need a bigger track as wide as the Devil’s Tower. On top of the peak, the truck could obtain supernatural alien powers to go fast enough to win the competition. How does that sound? Would you watch that movie? Honestly, it’s more infinitely rewarding in the long run than Ford v Ferrari, because that at least doesn’t snuff America’s current knowledge of Paris’ legendary annual event for the sake of making automobiles look cool.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Ford v Ferrari. 20th Century Fox. Web. <https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/ford-v-ferrari>.
“HOW ACCURATE IS "FORD V FERRARI"? THE TRUE STORY OF KEN MILES & CARROLL SHELBY.” History vs Hollywood. CTF Media. Web. <http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/ford-v-ferrari/>.
Thompson, Anne. “James Mangold: The Real Risk in ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Is Making a $100M Race-Car Movie for Adults.” Digital image. IndieWire. Penske Business Media, 11 Nov 2019. Web. <https://www.indiewire.com/2019/11/ford-v-ferrari-james-mangold-studio-movie-needle-matt-damon-christian-bale-oscars-1202188601/>.