October 14, 2019

VIFF 2019 | Damon and Bale Outrace 'Ford v Ferrari'

"We're gonna bury Ferrari at Le Mans."
VIFF 2019—Journeyman director James Mangold puts to screen the long-in-development biographical film recreating the events leading up the legendary 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Structured like a racing procedural with a methodical pace mirroring the actual competition being dramatized, the immersive Ford v Ferrari (aka Le Mans '66) is an expertly realized ride chronicling of the Ford Motor Company racing program's humble beginnings and ultimate triumph.

Starring the winning duo of Matt Damon and Christian Bale as famed race car designer Carroll Shelby and hotshot driver Ken Miles, the two make a truly appealing yet unlikely pairing. Everyone in this film feels like they are playing parts right up their alley. Damon plays the good-natured, even-keeled professional stalwart while Bale is the uncompromisingly sardonic, arrogant daredevil brimming with natural talent behind the wheel.

Written by scribes Jez and John-Henry Butterworth alongside Jason Keller, the basic script zips by economically encompassing a racing season into digestible portions leading up to the big twenty-four-hour race. The racing and seamless editing never make the repetitious sequences feel tiresome.

Christian Bale James Mangold | Ford v Ferrari

It's a uniformly capable cast pulling their weight with familiar material including Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe as Miles' loving wife and son used as emotional anchors to ground the theatrics of the film's based real-life events material. On the executive side of Ford's heyday, Jon Bernthal as Ford VP Lee Iacocca, Tracy Letts as Ford CEO Henry Ford II, and Josh Lucas as the stereotypical evil executive Leo Beebe standing in Shelby and Miles' way all make for an entertaining ensemble cast of players.

Mangold makes Ford v Ferrari into a classically told Mad Men era biopic about professional men who are extremely good at their jobs. It's told with such competence and expertise expressing the nature of its material so cinematically without being obviously flashy despite the ready-made subject matter.

Ford v Ferrari screened at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream at the Vancouver Playhouse.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Slashfilm / Variety

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