Ford v Ferrari Movie Review: An Old-fashioned Rouser

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

In Ford v Ferrari, the director James Mangold doesn’t hover over the race cars that rocket along at 210, 220, 230 miles per hour and scorch around curves. Overhead shots wouldn’t suit his objective, which is to put you inside or right alongside the vehicles, so that you can’t — for a nanosecond — forget the drivers’ chances of becoming a smoking mash of tin and innards on the blacktop. There’s no defense against Mangold’s hyperkinetic style, but, fortunately, there doesn’t need to be. He doesn’t misuse his head-rattling techniques. He’s an honorable head-rattler. The movie is an old-fashioned rouser with a lot of new-fashioned virtuosity.

Based on a weirdly true story set in the 1960s, the movie centers on two charismatic purists, the legendary ex-racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the rowdy, insolent Brit Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who’s a prodigy both behind the wheel and under the hood. It takes nearly half an hour to get the plot in fifth gear. After being rebuffed and insulted following a failed attempt to purchase the Italian company Ferrari to add hipster cred to his family-car image, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) vows to build his own race cars and crush the smug Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) in the 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans. Ford exec Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) reaches out to Shelby, who reaches out to Miles, whose penchant for insulting his wealthy but insufficiently auto-sensitive sports car customers has brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. With a blank check, the pair get busy hammering frames and shedding scores of pounds of engine parts.

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