The perfectly titled Ford v Ferrari (titled Le Mans ‘66 in the UK and other territories) is a sports drama that tells the story of how American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British mechanic & driver extraordinaire Ken Miles (Christian Bale), build a race car for Ford in order to dethrone Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966. Despite being provided all the resources of the giant car manufacturer, the two friends struggle to overcome the challenges of corporate interference and the dangers of creating a high speed and high endurance race car in order to beat Ferrari.
Even if you’re not interested in racing cars, Ford v Ferrari is a highly entertaining and inspirational story that’s a must-see for movie-goers.
After a failed attempt in 1963 by Ford to purchase Ferrari, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) decides to build a race car to compete at the 24 hours of Le Mans after being insulted by Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone). Ex-race car driver and businessman Carroll Shelby is hired by the giant car manufacturer to spearhead this task. But it’s not enough to have a great car designer build a new race car to beat Ferrari. You also need a great driver.
Shelby convinces his friend Ken Miles, an extremely talented driver and mechanic, to join the Ford team and help achieve the seemingly impossible. With almost unlimited financial resources at their disposal and their combined mastery of all things involving race cars, this should be a straightforward task. However, Ford’s corporate meddling where the suits are more concerned with the company’s image create unnecessary hurdles and roadblocks for the two friends as the suits have no real understanding of what it takes to win in the sport of high speed and high endurance car racing.
To make matters more difficult, the newly appointed Senior Vice President Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) takes an immediate dislike to Miles due to his blunt and coarse demeanor. Beebe is determined to make sure Miles isn’t behind the wheel when they eventually compete at Le Mans. It’s up to Shelby to keep everything together and on track as he tries to please Ford while doing what is needed to win against Ferrari.
Christian Bale is once again in top form playing the socially inept but talented race car driver Ken Miles. In true Bale style, he has once again dropped a considerable amount of weight to play the eccentric war veteran who is passionate about working on cars and racing. His lack of social grace and angry outbursts make for highly entertaining interactions – particularly with his co-star Matt Damon whose character Caroll Shelby knows how to play the PR game.
Matt Damon is also fantastic as ex-race car driver Caroll Shelby who can no longer be a professional race driver due to a heart condition. He’s perfectly cast alongside Bale playing the yin to Bale’s yang as he makes up for his co-star’s lack of diplomacy with exceptional people and business skills in order to keep their team on track. While Miles is insulting high ranking business executives and taking a hammer to his race car, Shelby is schmoozing business contacts and playing the corporate game to make sure he can achieve what needs to be done.
Director James Mangold (Logan, The Wolverine) has made a highly inspirational and moving movie about two friends doing what they are passionate about. They are such different people yet share the same drive for success in the sport of car racing and the friendship they have built around this shared passion is wonderful to see on screen. Watching them go through the dangerous yet exciting process of designing the Ford GT40 MKII while navigating the corporate minefield at Ford Motor Company and essentially creating history by the film’s end was a very uplifting experience.
As great a movie as Ford v Ferrari is it does sputter in a few places. It’s way too long. I found myself fidgety and agitated towards the film’s end and not because I wasn’t enjoying it – it was simply 30 minutes too long and I found myself wondering when the story will end. The second gripe I have is that there are major factual errors regarding the life of Ken Miles that can easily be fact checked. I don’t understand why studios change the events of history to try to make a movie “better” as this is already a great and inspirational story.
However, after discovering (after I’d already seen the film and was curious) that Ken Miles did indeed participate in the 1965 Le Mans, instead of being left back in America listening to the race on the radio as depicted, I felt disappointed about a movie that seemed to be about honoring the life of a great sportsman and instead falsified important events in his life to make him appear more like the underdog.
Despite its extensive length and unnecessary historical changes, Ford v Ferrari is a highly entertaining and inspirational look at two men passionate about what they do – and succeed in making their mark on history. You don’t need to be a car enthusiast or sports fan to appreciate this relatable and exciting look at a pivotal moment in the history of racing. The acting is top-notch and the production values are what you’d expect from a major Hollywood production. Ford v Ferrari is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a while and that makes it an easy recommendation from me.