Reel Dad revisits ‘Ford v Ferrari’ from home
Movies love fast cars.
From James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” to Steve McQueen in “Le Mans” and Tom Cruise in “Days of Thunder,” the camera loves to recreate the sensation of speed on the pavement as it explores the people behind the wheel.
As thrilling as the racing sequences may be in “Ford v Ferrari” - a 2019 Oscar winner now available to watch at home - the real story here is the relationship between two drivers with ambition to manage, humility to confront and priorities to balance. While the movie lens can make us feel we are in the driver’s seat, what fuels the film’s narrative is the courage demonstrated by two independent souls who dare to take on corporate giants. The result is as entertaining a film as you can find to help pass the time at home this weekend.
In the mid-1960s, speed is everything in the car business. The big three automakers in the US - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors - use race tracks around the world to promote the power of their cars as they hope to lure buyers into showrooms. But the American auto companies find it challenging to compete with great European brands. From Ferrari to Fiat, the Europeans consistently dominate the world’s great race tracks. But the audacious Americans believe this can change. So, after Ferrari turns down an offer to be purchased by Ford Motor Company, executives Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca decided to invest in their own fast cars to challenge the European dominance on the iconic track at Le Mans. And they enlist racing champions Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles to speed up their ambitions on the track.
While the film celebrates the allure of fast cars, this race against time puts the collaboration between Shelby and Miles in the fast lane. These driven colleagues could be working in any business as they navigate agendas, circumvent executives and discover what they share and what they must work around. For Shelby, securing a victory requires that he overcome issues of health, stress and trust; for Miles, redemption on the track can validate the challenges his career creates for his wife and son. Separately, these opposites must maneuver through potholes filled with potentially conflicting agendas; together, they explore how collaboration can bring out the best each has to offer.
The lead actors magically connect. Matt Damon, who continues to master the art of subtle expression, makes us believe in Shelby’s authentic interests as he carefully reveals the driver’s anxieties. And Christian Bale, one year after delivering a powerful rendition of Dick Cheney in “Vice,” creates yet another unforgettable portrayal of a driven professional who tries to remember the people he loves. Together, these actors make the lessons of “Ford v Ferrari” reach beyond the track to detail these complex personalities. While the moments at high speed may create this film’s thrills, the quiet sequences of people trying to connect give the movie its heart. Ultimately, what makes “Ford v Ferrari” so memorable is not what we experience when people race, it’s what we learn about what it takes to get them to the track.
“Ford v Ferrari” is Rated PG-13 for “some language and peril.” It runs 2 hours and 32 minutes. The film is available on demand and streaming on Amazon.
Content: High. “Ford v Ferrari” reminds us what people can achieve when they learn how to trust each other.
Entertainment: High. While the racing sequences supply the visual thrills, the real heart of the film is the friendship between two unlikely collaborators.
Message: High. The film reveals the private world of public figures without trying to sensationalize the impact of their work on the track.
Relevance: High. While the lessons of auto racing may be limited, the film’s insight into friendships between complex characters fascinates.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. While “Ford v Ferrari” offers a thrilling visual experience, take the time to listen to what the characters have to say, too.