2019, Movies

Ford v Ferrari (2019, James Mangold)

The funniest thing about this movie – aside from the fight between Bale and Damon, which is genuinely good physical comedy – is that they had to title it one thing in ‘Merica and another in the rest of the world. That’s because the film execs think Americans don’t know what Le Mans is. Maybe they’re right, and Americans only know about NASCAR and Indy, especially pre-Drive to Survive but it still makes me laugh. (The international title is Le Mans ’66 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the original title.)

This is a pretty decent racing film about an interesting moment in the sport when a major car manufacturer sort of fell into dominating Le Mans for half a decade. It is very professionally made and told, as you would expect from a Mangold movie. I think it mostly works as a film.

The racing is pretty good. I watch all F1 races and occasionally some other stuff and I can say they do a pretty good job of capturing it. I just watched Le Mans and, while I don’t think this is on that standard (literally documenting an actual Le Mans race), it still feels like an above average job of conveying the speed.

The movie is too long. I’m not exactly sure what should have been cut, but it definitely doesn’t need to be this long. I feel like the pacing was mostly pretty good but, by the denouement, you’re sort of wondering why it took that long to get there.

Josh Lucas’ character feels like a cartoon villain. Apparently the guy really did ruin the race but I don’t know how much of the rest of it is real. It certainly feels over-the-top. And there are other inaccuracies that you can easily look up. That’s true of all docudramas but the whole “leaving Miles behind” thing doesn’t seem to have happened.

Also, as a Canadian who cringes at American exceptionalism, I did find the “Americans sticking it to the stuck up Europeans” a little ridiculous. Particularly because it’s a cliché but also because there’s no establishing of Shelby’s personal animus towards Ferrari. That would have made the film longer, which is not good, but it would have better explained the whole stopwatch thing, among other things. (I guess we’re supposed to believe this is just frustration from not being able to race.)

But, on the whole, I think it does a pretty good job of dramatizing its subject and making us care about this relatively obscure (for North Americans) moment in racing history.


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