I used to be a fan of F1. It was a really long time ago but my whole family were into. We would sit down on a Sunday and watch as men in stupidly fast cars got paid a stupid amount of money to go round and round a track. As you can probably tell, I’m not that bothered about it anymore. It doesn’t really feel like a great spectator sport. Maybe if you’re seeing it in person but watching it on TV. It just seems like a weird thing. So, with that in mind, I wasn’t sure that Ford vs Ferrari would be the film for me. Any film that romanticises motorsport just didn’t necessarily feel like the one for me. However, I was really excited when I saw the trailer. It looked really good and I’m a huge fan of both Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Okay, I think Christian Bale might also be a bit of psychopath but that doesn’t mean I can’t get excited.
Sports movies are never really about the sport, are they? The joy doesn’t come from watching actors pretending to take part in a sport that you like. It’s about the people. It’s about the story of people who are passionate about something and who are willing to do whatever it takes to win. After all, why would you want to watch a film about a sport when you could watch the sport itself? Or at the very least a documentary? I’m not a very sporty person but I do love a good sports movie. The fact that always end up going the same way is part of the appeal. You know where you are with a sports film. An underdog, trying to get to the top, will have to go through plenty of hardships before making a huge breakthrough. They’re usually cheesy, overly emotional and intense, and light on the sport of it all. It’s perfect.
Ford vs Ferrari tells the real story of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles who work together to build the Ford GT40, a racing car that will allow Henry Ford II to defeat Ferrari. After a deal goes wrong between Ford and Ferrari, the American car company becomes determined to stop the winning streak of the Ferrari racing team at Le Mans, the 24-hour car race. Shelby’s background is car racing but ill health forced him in another direction. Miles is the difficult but brilliant racer. He has everything it takes to win but nobody wants to work with him. Together, the pair help design a new Ford model that has everything it needs to defeat Ford but the company doesn’t think Miles has the right image. The pair have to work around the stuffy execs to get the car they want and to get Mile on the starting grid.
The greatest thing about Ford vs Ferrari is that it works on so many levels. The film doesn’t really pull any punches when it comes to showing Ford and his executives as interfering with the process. It turns Shelby and Miles into every passionate person with a dream who keep coming up against stumbling blocks. It makes it an incredibly relatable tale. We don’t just see two racing car drivers trying to win a race. We see two craftsmen fighting the system. It’s the artists against the establishment. Ford vs Ferrari is a universal tale and will appeal to a wide audience. And there is a lot of passion behind the film itself. Is it doing anything particularly amazing and original? No. This film isn’t breaking down boundaries but there is something about it. It’s full of charm and love that you’ll find yourself endeared towards it.
I wouldn’t say this was either of the two main actors’ greatest ever performances but they do have great chemistry on screen. Matt Damon is basically playing Matt Damon as an ex-racing driver. It’s a relaxed and understated performance but, hey, it works. Christian Bale works hard (cause it’s Christian Bale) and is more about mannerisms, accents, and faces. There are moments when you think he’s going to go uber-Bale but he manages to keep it together. Bales’ Miles is a well-realised and developed character. Is it historically accurate, I don’t know but I don’t really care. He does a good job in the role and you’ll end up liking Ken. The execs in the film are all played well and you understand how greasy and slippery they are. It’s the sole female character, Miles’ wife Mollie, who gets the worst deal. She turns up every now and then worrying about his workload. Then she sits in front of a TV looking worried.
So, it’s essentially the formula of any other sports film but this film is so well made. It looks beautiful and the main relationship works really well. The friendship that develops between the pair feels natural and understandable. You get their passion and you know why they are working so hard. Then there’s the actual racing part. It was always going to be interesting to see how the film portrayed the 24 hours of Le Mans. You couldn’t just sit there and show cars going round and round for an entire day. The film manages to bring the drama and excitement of racing onto the screen. It also wonderfully evokes the time period and you’ll lose yourself in the visuals. Do I quite believe the philosophical musing that when you reach 7000 rpm you lose yourself in the experience? Not really. It was bit too much for me. Still, I’m not going to hold that against it when the rest of the film was so brilliant. It’s an adrenalin ride that is stuffed with emotions and a great deal of tension. I wasn’t sure I’d like it but this was a really entertaining film.