Ford v Ferrari is the story of how Ford Motors in the USA developed a race car and team to defeat Ferrari in the 1966 Le Mans 24hr race, and the friendship between the Team Leader Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles.
We meet Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) in 1959 where he is racing in Le Mans, before we learn he has to quit driving for medical reasons. Forward to 1966 and Ford Motors is losing business, so in order to capture the youth market one executive has an idea to race a Ford race car in the Le Mans 24hr race, which Ferrari has won the past 5 years. Their first plan, to buy out the ailing Ferrari company, is met with scorn by Enzo Ferrari and motivates Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to finance the creation of a Ford Racing Car and team with the express purpose of defeating Ferrari at Le Mans.
In 1966 Carroll Shelby is selling cars and designing custom race cars which are driven with success by the non-conforming UK-born race Ken Miles (Christian Bale). As the only man with Le Mans experience, Shelby is enlisted by Ford to head the race team, and in turn persuades them to have Miles as the driver. Ken Miles is not your stereotypical race car driver, and he continually rubs Ford Management the wrong way, so Shelby is always battling with them to keep him on the program because he is both a very talented driver and race engineer. The Shelby/Miles partnership proves it’s worth when they win the Daytona & Sebring endurance races in 1966, and Miles is allowed to drive at Le Mans for the showdown with Ferrari.
Ford v Ferrari is an exhilarating and enjoyable movie to watch – not only are the (many) race car scenes filmed fantastically and sound amazing, but the partnership between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles and their friendship through all the ups and downs really tie the film together. Matt Damon is good as the stoic, quietly confident Shelby who has to walk the line between pleasing the bosses and building the car. It’s Christian Bale though who really shines, giving Miles an energy and physicality that compliments Damon’s Shelby perfectly. Henry Ford and the Ford Execs are suitably horrible so that you are really rooting for Shelby & Miles to pull through, and Miles’ family is a great grounding support for him, especially his wife Mollie played beautifully by Caitriona Balfe.
The film is a little long, nearly 2.5hrs and while we get a good knowledge of Ken Miles outside the racing scene there is much depth to Shelby’s character outside of cars. And apart from a little bit of swearing, this is a good family-friendly film to watch even if you aren’t into car racing.
Director – James Mangold
Writer – Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
Stars – Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts
Rating – M
Running Time – 146 Mins
Genres – Sports, Drama, Biopic