IndieWire made an excellent point: “the real risk in Ford V Ferrari is making a $100 million USD race-car movie for adults. For writer and director James Mangold, it now means the opportunity to nab an Oscar as the newly-released film becomes a contender for Best Screenplay as well as two potential Best Actor nominations for dynamic duo Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Based on a true tale, the 20th Century Fox-led film follows American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles as they battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the infamous race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
Since initial word of the film, I was eager to view the film despite limited knowledge of the background. I understood the famed history of the 24-hour Le Mans race, its drivers having to start from the concrete barrier before running to their respective vehicles. And sure, I enjoy sitting in the driver’s seat of Maserati Levante Trofeo – more on that here – but I will admit I’m rusty on the engineering of cars. Nevertheless and despite deep knowledge on the inner workings of the GT40, did I find the film utterly entertaining. Beside me, two men aged in their ’60s whispered about the specs of each car that flashed on the screen. I however, gawked at another of Christian Bale’s captivating transformations.
In 2018, Bale fronted Dick Cheney in the award-winning film VICE. Portraying the former Vice-President of the United States, the 45-year-old actor morphed into an overweight shell of himself as he revived the formidable figure. Before that, one of his most notable transformations arrived with the 2000 film, The Machinist where he lost 65 pounds to reveal an eery skeletal creature. But stepping away from what can only be imagined as a torturous process to obtain dangerous physiques, the Batman star stepped into his raw acting abilities to play celebrated driver, Ken Miles. With a gritty layer of spray tan and a tousled hair cut, Bale retrained his British accent for how do you say it, a more ‘redneck’ edge.
It can be argued that the ‘magic’ factor from Ford V Ferrari was the meticulous attention-to-history-detail, but with a script teeming with dry humour and quirky subtleties of a cheeky wink here, and confused squint there, it would leave even the most clueless viewers engaged until the roll of credits. Weaved within the lengthy bursts of heartwarming moments, supported by Miles’ wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and son, Peter (Noah Jupe), there are also moments of gripping sadness and vulnerability. This is perhaps where Matt Damon’s role as Carroll Shelby is best revealed.
No one can deny the bromance between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon pre-2000’s, but dare I say it, a new power couple has arrived to Hollywood. And it should be known that even without an interest in racing or cars, Ford V Ferrari is so deeply rich on everyday humanity, it is bound to inspire every audience member who witnesses the work of James Mangold.
Ford V Ferrari is in cinemas tomorrow, November 14. Tune into the trailer below.