Our staff shares its reactions after watching the movie
Editor’s note: Instead of assigning one person to review the Ford v Ferrari movie, we sent our staff to the theater and present here their reactions to the movie.
Even Marci liked Ford v Ferrari. That’s some big praise when my wife not only enjoys a racing film but thought it was exciting and even inspiring. And at nearly 2-and-half hours, not at all too long.
Ford v Ferrari does have a great story to tell, one well-known to racing fans but still fresh in the Hollywood-style presentation, with big-name actors playing the roles of the bigger-than-life historic figures, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. Matt Damon does a convincing Shelby-style Texas twang and all, though not coming across nearly as cantankerous as the Cobra legend could be.
Christian Bale steals the show as the single-minded Miles, dramatically portraying the exceptional motorsports talent with flinty grace.
Although, the real star of the film is the terrific racing action, fast and loud, and with an emotional urgency as intense as the GT40s that carry the story to its finish. The violence and confusion of crashes during competition, and the claustrophobic scenes with Miles in the cockpit, were incredibly well-done.
Ford v Ferrari is a wonderful film that will take its place as one of the greatest of racing movies, although not without a few obvious flaws. To wit, there’s no way that Carrol Shelby took Henry Ford II on a wild ride in a GT40 that drove the chief to tears. And no one believes that Shelby and Miles had a goofy fistfight tussle in a public park.
The legendary Lee Iacocca was an important figure at Ford, but he was not part of the mission to Italy to negotiate with Enzo Ferrari. And was Leo Beebe really such a diabolical villain?
But what was most glaring, at least for me, came right at the end as the three GT40s crossed the finish line at Le Mans, pretty much three abreast. Photos of that historic moment are familiar and well-known, and they document the staggered position of the cars at the finish, which is quite unlike what’s shown in the film. That would have been easy to duplicate, and it annoyed me that they would get such a simple thing wrong.
Still, the basic story was well told and the videography was absolutely delightful. And that racing action, great stuff.
Like many other automotive and racing journalists, I saw a fair number of flaws. First of all, the casting of Tracy Letts as HFII in 1966 was a long way away from reality, as HFII was nowhere near that grey at the time. He was only 49 years old. Second, Ford World Headquarters does not have 19 floors as the dialog said. It has 12. The view of Dearborn from the top floor doesn’t and didn’t look anything like that, and neither does the Dearborn test track. Anyone who worked at Ford for 10 years as I did would have noticed all of that.
I don’t know why the director spent so much time showing shifting and downshifting, but I can tell you for sure that the clutch and shifter mechanisms in those cars did not make that kind of amplified hammering-on-a bucket racket.
I thought the racing footage from the 1966 Le Mans was weak, with only a handful of cars shown in any given shot when there were mobs of cars racing together all the time. Two cars, alone, on the Mulsanne Straight? Lap after lap? Nah. The jousting and touching between Miles and Bandini was overcooked. And I thought the movie made Leo Beebe look like an ass-kissing idiot, which he was not.
I also didn’t give much credit to the movie for not being more specific about the other drivers in the other Ford cars. And, an entire movie about Carroll Shelby without a single F-bomb?
I’d give it a C-minus.
The key to Ford v. Ferrari is to suspend your disbelief over some of the inaccuracies. Yes, there are a number of things that will annoy those seriously involved in the car community, and especially Shelby and Ford people. However, do your best to forget that and just watch the movie.
This is an excellent racing film, I would say possibly the best racing film we have seen in decades, and up there with my all-time favorite, Grand Prix. Even when compared with a modern film like Rush, Ford v. Ferrari is both more accessible for non-car people as well as more entertaining.
It captures an era of sports car racing that is long past, a time when drivers were really super-human heroes with strong and vocal personalities, and manufacturers took a serious interest in the sport.
Visually, the film is stunning and well-crafted. The fact that the producers used actual cars and not CGI makes a huge difference.
The highlight of the entire film for me was the depiction of Ken Miles by Christian Bale, which is unbelievable in its accuracy. The nuances of this character are captured perfectly. From the first time you see him he is Ken Miles.
On the other hand, Matt Damon’s portrayal of Carroll Shelby is acceptable for those who didn’t know him. He gets the voice and the accent spot on, but the Shelby on the screen isn’t the person many of us knew.
The other supporting characters were quite good, from those playing Henry 2 to Phil Remington, though they do age Phil a bit too much for the era.
The best thing about this film is that it is it can be enjoyed by car people and non-car people. It celebrates a time when people honesty thought anything was possible and then they went out and proved that it was.
I was in high school during the years Ford was seeking supremacy on the race track, but honestly had no idea Ford and Ferrari were combatants. What 16-year-old kid did back at the dawn of the muscle car era? I was concerned about only two things… big engines and… wait for it… being cool. You thought I was headed another direction, dintcha!
Today, I have a different perspective and when I watched Ford vs Ferrari this past weekend, I was drawn to the need for speed, but was more focused on the part race driver Ken Miles played in this automotive melodrama.
Miles didn’t register as a known competitor for me until I read his name in a couple of historical homilies. But the movie brought home Ken Miles’ story and I was transfixed by what was going to happen to him next rather than how the race was won.
Christian Bales’ portrayal of Miles was top drawer and though some parts of the saga stretched the facts, the chemistry between Bales’ character and Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby seemed sincere and provided the drama needed to make the film a winner.
Whether Shelby and Miles truly had the relationship portrayed by the screenwriters, it provided just the right emotion to make you root for both throughout the movie, and to feel genuine sorrow at the very end.
Ford vs Ferrari is worth the time to watch even if you aren’t attracted to the speed and danger. The history is important, but the very human aspect is what makes the story work.
And take along someone who doesn’t even know there was a Henry Ford II. Bet they’ll like it too.
If you love cars, then you know about the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari.
If you love racing, then you know about the special events that took place on June 19, 1966, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But if you are like me, you may have always wondered about the behind-the-scenes details that tied the two events together.
After watching Ford vs. Ferrari, I walked away with a wave of new knowledge on racing history, along with sadness for Ken Miles.
Whether you are as curious as I am about the 1966 Le Mans race or just want to see a great movie about racing and fast cars, Ford vs. Ferrari is the perfect movie for you.
Calling the movie Ford v Ferrari makes as much sense as labeling a sport utility vehicle as a Mustang.
Sure, without the demise of Ford’s deal to purchase Ferrari there likely would have been no GT40 nor the eventual photo-op 1-2-3 sweep at Le Mans, but that was the backstory to a movie that should have been titled Fast Friends, because the movie is about the bond between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles.
Actually, in many ways, the movie was primarily about Miles and his wife and son, and I thought that was the best part, Miles finally getting featured after an amazing if too brief racing career that started late because of his service in the British Army in World War II — he was a tank commander among those landing at Normandy on D Day — and ended much too early.
I was very surprised at how well Matt Damon did in his portrayal of Carroll Shelby, but the real stars of the movie were the trio of British actors — Christian Bale as Miles, Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles and Noah Jupe as their son, Peter.
While the movie has been widely praised as a must-see for those interested in racing in particular and in classic cars in general, it also has its critics. For example, author Art Garner makes a case for the way the script slandered Ford executive Leo Beebe, and Hannah Elliott decries the glorification of an entire era when car guys ruled the automakers.
Personally, I don’t think this was the greatest racing movie of all time. In fact, I thought much of the racing was redundant — especially all those gear-change and tachometer closeups. And I was displeased, to say the least, with the “Hollywoodization” of a story inspired by real events.
But then, we were told the Mach-E was inspired by the real Mustang.
P.S. — If you want to know more about Shelby and his career, Shelby American, the documentary by Adam Carolla’s Chassy Media, can be viewed on Netflix.