Ford v Ferrari (James Mangold, 2019, USA/France)

   Ford v. Ferrari is a slick and handsome Hollywood biopic, recounting Ford's attempt to rebrand and revitalize after their worst sales slump in the company's history. The film - made by Hollywood standby craftsman James Mangold - is entertaining, although it stretches a bit too long at two and a half hours. The film is centered on two characters - Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale, and Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon. The interplay between the two of them is the crux of the film. 
     Mangold's film is successful in making the racing world accessible to those with little interest in it. The script doesn't get bogged down in the details and instead rests at the surface level. The race sequences are truly exciting, and convey the intensity and immediacy of the racing experience. While there are lulls in the film, it is genuinely exciting during many moments.
     Bale as Ken Miles, Damon's choice to race the Ford GT during Le Mans, is the highlight of the film. He brings his trademark intensity to the role, portraying Miles as a volatile and thrill-seeking character. While Miles is also portrayed as a family man, the exploration of this aspect of his life is somewhat less fulfilling in the script. Why does he feel compelled to risk his life with racing, when he has so much to lose?

     Damon as Carroll Shelby is more understandable. A great racer at the end of his career, he is able to resurrect his past glory in tandem with Miles. His opposition and tension with Ford is the stuff of most biopics, although Josh Lucas as the smarmy Ford exec is entertaining. Still, this tension with the Ford execs is the most predictable and by-the-numbers aspect of this biopic. The result is a film which is meant to please, but does so in large measure. 



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