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Movie Review: Ford v Ferrari (aka LeMans '66)

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Movie Review:  Ford v Ferrari

I grew up in a Ford family.  I love to watch racing.  I find the history of the sport fascinating, I find the history of the business fascinating.  I’m the four quadrant target audience for this movie.  So, as far as I’m concerned, this movie has to be perfect, or it’s a lemon.

I’ve heard the general beats of the story:  Ford offers to buy Ferrari, Ferrari very eloquently tells them to screw off, and it’s game on for Ford to beat Ferrari at LeMans.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the ‘behind closed doors’ moments of the film, but they’re certainly well done.  I’m sure some characters do things that are historically inaccurate to further the story, but I appreciate that the truth suffers in the name of art.

Our main protagonists are Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a rough and tumble racer who can’t master the ‘making friends’ part of joining a top racing ream, and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a former racing champion who can’t master life outside a car.  They’re supported by Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), trying to worm his way to the top of Ford, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), trying to stay at the top of Ford, and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), trying to prove that he and his company are worthy of the Ford name.

Where the movie truly shines though, is with its racing scenes.  Any time we’re in a car, we feel everything.  The speed, acceleration, braking, high g force turns and the adrenaline all of that brings.  We also feel the fear of a car that isn’t working well.  We feel the terror of a car that has failed.  Most magnificently, we feel the pure joy of a car that IS working perfectly.  I don’t know that any movie (short of the Mario Andretti Imax movie) has come anywhere close to capturing driving/racing this well.

The movie fantastically captures the clash between Ford’s “corporate culture”, and the “rough and tumble” world of professional racing.  The racers of the era, both in the cars, and putting the cars together, had a reputation of being straight forward, and resorting to physical means for resolving problems… either mechanical (hammering car parts) or personal (breaking noses).  Ford executives can’t afford to be seen hammering or breaking anything, and aren’t keen on having their representatives doing that, but they learn there’s no other way to win.

Other aspects of the movie are well done, if formulaic.  We get to know Ken Miles’ family.  He’s the one putting  his life at risk, so we have to understand the risk.  He has a wife who he will do anything for, who also supports him.  He has a son who sees him as an infallible hero.  They’re played well enough by Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe respectively.  We get to know Shelby’s crew enough to learn that he’s a ‘hard ass’, but also respects talent and loyalty.  They’re doing their job, but they’re the parts of the movie that fill in the blanks between the races.

Over all, there’s plenty to enjoy in terms of action, in humour and human drama.  We see several ways of life come together, sometimes in conflict, sometimes in cooperation.  Just like real life it’s not always about right and wrong, but it’s about how well we can do what we do.

There's a doco on Netflix about this with a history
of Ford and Ferrari leading up to movie. I watched half of
[i and it was pretty informative

I went to see it yesterday. (Monday is Senior Discount day  ;)  ) They had it in their Extreme XD theater so I went to that. The first 20 minute were very good. Than the super high tech projector packed it in. I'll go see it in its entirety today or tomorrow.

I finally got to see the entire film. Absolutely outstanding! It is not just a great racing film, it's a great film. Even people who aren't "car folks" will enjoy it. I think (hope) that it will generate more interest in racing.

Two spoiler-free side notes:

Look for Ken Miles's son Peter playing with his slot track. It has a LeMans style Dunlop Bridge made from an old air filter stood on edge with Dunlop painted on it. I wish I'd have thought of that at his age.

While Shelby & Miles are racing a Cobra at Willow Springs, two guys drive a black sedan up to Ken's garage. It's a 1961 Falcon. My very first car was the station wagon version of that.

My first car was a '62 Mercury Comet, rebodied version of the same car. 190 c.i. straight 6, 1 bbl carburator, 2 speed automatic.


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