- Katie Bell
Ford v Ferrari - 2019
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Growing up in an Australian family, I always thought that the ultimate rivalry was between Ford and Holden. Apparently not. I have to admit, aside from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Herbie Love Bug I've pretty much always disliked car films. This film however, was a very pleasant surprise.
Jumping on the trend of biopics, this film doesn't just deliver the history of Ford, it also focuses on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Essentially, the film explores the mid-60s, a period in history where Ford was looking at buying Ferrari, and after being not-so-politely rejected, they decided to wage war on the bespoke car manufacturer, by beating them in a car race...sounds kind of petty when written like that, but it makes sense when viewed within the greater context of the movie. Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles are brought on board, or on track rather, to build and test the cars that will ultimately, be relied upon to show Ferrari who's boss. When summarised, the plot seems kind of shallow. However, it really isn't. This film is over two hours in length, and I wasn't fidgeting. There's enough drama, excitement, and - I hate to say it - motorsports, to keep the audience engaged for the entire time.
The plot may not have been quite as engaging if it weren't for the wonderful chemistry between the cast. Bale and Damon work extremely well together. They portray their relationship more like that of brothers than friends. The script is written in such a way that it's clear that although these two don't necessarily always see eye to eye, they do have a mutual respect for one another. Furthermore, Miles' wife Mollie is performed by Caitriona Balfe and she plays the part well, demonstrating both encouragement and exasperation towards her husband; a man whose passion for vehicles seems to consume his every waking hour. Even though, this film is called Ford v Ferrari, at times it would be more relevant to call it Miles/Shelby v Ford, and on this note, the repetition of Jon Bernthal's cheeky grin, every time his colleagues at Ford try and fail to intervene with Miles/Shelby, managed to make me chuckle out loud by the end. Essentially, I took pleasure in the fact, that he took pleasure in the fact, that his villainous colleagues' plans are villainous...and sometimes thwarted.
This film builds tension extremely well. I often talk about tension in my reviews, and it probably seems like a no-brainer to some. But honestly, I would ask those people who do think it's a no-brainer the following question:
Did you grow up in a household with a dad and three uncles who were obsessed with motorsports? I did. To the point where my three-year-old brother was so obsessed with Mick Doohan, that he approached random motorcyclists in the street and asked for their autographs.
I'm rambling...The point is, I watched a lot of motorsports growing up. I attended racing events. And I hated every second of it. I found it boring, monotonous and repetitive (and also very, very, very loud). This movie was not like that. At all. I cannot stress this enough. In every scene that involved a racing car, my heart was racing too. This film truly captures the precision of the sport (eugh, I can't believe I just wrote that), and causes the audience to sit on the edge of their seats, wondering what will unfold next. You are invested in the people driving the cars, and not necessarily in the idea of them taking home the trophy at the end, just in them surviving until the chequered flag.
I have one major qualm with this film, and I hope by now that you have figured it out. There is a lot of product placement in Ford v Ferrari. It starts with a gentle tracking shot that moves away from a beautiful display of #coke and #smirnoff and on to something more important. We then have people drinking coke, reading about coke, standing beside smirnoff, drinking more coke, hoisting empty coke bottles aloft at motor racing events and the list goes on...Look, I don't have a problem with COKE, and I understand the logic behind product placement, but in this film it is straight-up distracting. And in this circumstance, my issues with product placement were probably exacerbated by the fact that this is a film about the history of a BRAND. I mean, yes, it would probably have been unethical to accept too much money from either Ford or Ferrari for this film (and likely a huge waste of time on either car company's part). However, I'm sure there are some car-related brands out there who would have appreciated some more air time in this film. Replace the coke with a tyre company or something....I don't know...Although if I'm honest, I saw a #goodyear jacket at one point, so they very well could have done this, too. I just cannot get over all of the COKE.
COKE aside, this is a film that made me really appreciate the fact that I write reviews, because if it weren't for this web site, I wouldn't have seen this film. And if I didn't see this film, I would have been missing out...now where is my nice, ice-cold, refreshing COKE?