When it comes to sports movies, there are plenty of essential movies to look at depending on which sport you’re a fan of. Baseball fans have movies such as Bull Durham, football fans have Any Given Sunday, and boxing fans have Raging Bull. Oddly enough, racing movies are pretty niche in the genre, coming by once in a while in different degrees of quality. The last great racing movie came in 2013 with Ron Howard’s Rush, which chronicled the Formula One rivalry of James Hunt and Niki Lauda. I’m pleased to tell you that another director has thrown his hat into the ring for racing movies.
James Mangold has, in my opinion, always been underrated. Films like Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan have stood out as his best. For a while, he seemed like he would go on as a good director who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. The aforementioned films earned some nominations at Oscar ceremonies, but Mangold has never been nominated. With his latest film, Ford v Ferrari, Mangold not only reaches a new high in his career, but he also crafts one of the most entertaining films of the year.
Ford v Ferrari (packaged outside the US as Le Mans ’66) tells the true story of two men in the world of racing. Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) previously won Le Mans in 1959, but retired due to a heart condition. His post racing life is spent designing sports cars meant for speed and high performance. He’s hired by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca (Tracy Letts and Jon Bernthal, respectively) to make a car designed to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Shelby is on board and hires driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a British hot head and struggling mechanic. Shelby believes that Miles is a natural driver and can help bring glory to Ford, but the higher-ups at Ford don’t believe he is the ideal fit.
The whole movie consists of men butting heads with each other with one endgame in mind: beat Ferrari. All of these men involved are driven (no pun intended) and determined to make the best car possible. There’s an old saying I like that goes “If you tell a committee to make a horse, they will make you a camel.” This rings true in the movie and is the source of the drama that takes place off of the racetrack. It may not be as exciting as the races, but it still holds your interest and allows Damon and Bale to have some great scenes both separately and together.
The climactic race at Le Mans takes up the majority of the third act, but is in every way exhilarating. Not knowing the events going in, I found myself on the edge of my seat the whole time. I didn’t want it to end, and the way it does was not what I expected. When it does eventually end, the film keeps going to an extended epilogue that didn’t kill the momentum completely, but I would’ve been happier with on screen text telling me what happened.
Above all, the best compliment I can give Ford v Ferrari is that it did not feel like a two and a half hour movie. The time went by quickly and that’s a testament to Mangold’s direction. Movies of this caliber don’t come often enough. Great performances, tight editing and some surprisingly funny lines make this movie a must watch for racing enthusiasts. Even if you’re not into racing like I am, you’ll still be able to enjoy it for its impressive technical work and compelling story. This is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Ford v Ferrari is now in theaters worldwide