Racing biopic ‘Ford v Ferrari’ brings strong performances from A-list actors

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Director James Mangold takes audiences to the race track with unprecedented finesse in his film “Ford v Ferrari.” 

It’s not dark or gritty like other racing biopics. Rather, “Ford v Ferrari” is delicate in every detail and word. Mangold takes racing and turns it into an art, with the driver as a calculated painter and castor oil covering his hands instead of acrylics.

The narrative follows the true story of car designer Carroll Shelby’s (Matt Damon) and race car driver Ken Miles’ (Christian Bale) attempt to partner with the Ford Motor Company and defeat Ferrari at the Le Mans, a 24-hour race in 1966. 

This story is absolutely beautiful to watch, mesmerizing even. It’s a shame humans have to blink. The color scheme of navy blues against unsaturated yellows and cherry reds is entrancing, especially when coupled with touches of golden sunlight in almost every daytime scene. Every second of the film feels meticulously crafted.

It helps that the setting is gorgeous. The wide open land and expansive sky gives a Western feel with horsepower instead of horses. Set design both on and off the track do an excellent job of teleporting the audience to the 1960s, a time where offices had minibars and people listened to races on radios. 

The picturesque spaces are commanded by tasteful performances from Bale and Damon. Bale channels his British roots for his complex role as an English driver who cares for more than just fixing cars and speeding down long stretches of road. Damon delivers his lines in a Texas twang, smooth as butter on a fresh batch of hot biscuits. He might as well be saying: “You all may go to hell, and I will go to the racetrack.” 

Josh Lucas portrays Ford executive Leo Beebee as a bonafide a--hole that makes you want to never buy a car from Ford Motor Company ever again. He comes off as sly and grimy, exactly as he should.

What gives this film the chef’s kiss of pura perfezione — Italian for “pure perfection” — is not the sexy cars or diverse camera angles. It’s the makeup. They got every detail right, down to the grit under every last fingernail. Bale’s neck is sunburnt red and his fingers are greasy with castor oil, even after he’s done working in the garage. It’s the mark of a true driver.

The film did have a slight bump in the road when it came to score. It incorporated rock ‘n’ roll, country and jazz to give off a cool, American vibe, but there are times when it feels like a television drama score, not that of a feature film. This is made up for by revving engines and subjective sound that draws the audience into Miles’ headspace. 

Unlike the drivers in “Talladega Nights” or “Rush,” Miles has the headspace of a driver with vision. He’s like Mangold, someone who can see the bigger picture of it all and make it happen.