Car racing movies are one of the most difficult to pull off. In fact, any kind of sports film is challenging to make. One might argue that car racing or any sports is inherently very gripping to watch, so that makes filmmaker’s job easier. Well, the flaw in that argument is that when you are watching a sports, you are rooting for a team or a sportsperson, and therefore, you are emotionally engaged. In case of films, the “emotional engagement” is the challenging part — not the sports itself. That’s why you see most of the sports films investing so much time in the backstory of its lead characters. ‘Ford v Ferrari’ is no different in that sense. At a running length of 2 hours and 32 minutes, the film certainly takes its time to build up and make sure that you are emotionally invested in characters enough. What works in film’s favor is having two extremely talented actors in Christian Bale and Matt Damon at its center. So, even if there are moments you feel the film is slacking or getting soapy, you have these two actors at the top of their game who always keep things interesting.
‘Ford v Ferrari’, as you might know, is based on the revolutionary race that happened at Le Mans in 1966, where Ford and Ferrari were pitted against each other. Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car endurance race, held annually since 1923. The film follows how automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and race car driver Ken Miles (Bale) lead a team of American engineers and designers from Ford to build a race car that can beat legendary Ferrari.
‘Ford v Ferrari’ in many ways follows the traditional narrative arc of a sports film — an undying spirit, roadblocks in the way, an antagonist, conquering fears, winning against all odds — but it is hugely benefited by the real life friendship of Shelby and Miles that forms the backbone of the film. The best moments in the film are the scenes of confrontations and partnerships between Shelby and Miles. One scene that particularly stands out is when Miles punches Shelby, which results in an extremely hilarious fight between the two.
What is a racing film without racing? Well, the film also offers a lot to racing aficionados. In fact, the final racing sequence lasts for more than 25 minutes, giving audiences ample dosage of thrill and speed. The sound of GT40 and Ferrari competing on a race track is one of the most goosebumby things you will experience in a movie theater, especially if you love cars and racing. Apart from the racing itself and the dynamics between Shelby and Miles, film tries its best to involve Miles’ wife and son into the proceedings, but most of those scenes feels forced. Where the film also fails is explaining rules of Le Mans to audience. Even a two-minute scene of making the audience familiar with the race would have made the final racing sequence more gripping.
If you love cars and/or racing, ‘Ford v Ferrari’ is a must see. Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles are iconic figures in the world of racing and to see both of them form a team and be able to beat the Goliath of car racing is not just a pleasure; it is also hugely inspiring.