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TIFF 2019 Review: Racing epic 'Ford V Ferrari' has plenty of gas in the tank

Courtesy of Disney/Fox


Though disguised in the ruse of a racing picture, James Mangold’s fun, though not necessarily groundbreaking, “Ford V Ferrari” is really a character study on two men, Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Chrisitan Bale) who effectively steered the Ford Motor Company into the history books as they helped pioneer the world’s fastest American car into France’s iconic Le Mans, a brutal 24-hour road race.

This awards bait crowd-pleaser, engineered to maximum efficiency and powered by two strong male leads, follows Damon’s Shelby, already a race car playboy complete with crisp Southern diction and a tall cowboy hat too boot, whose approached by Ford GM Lee Ioacca (Jon Berenthal) to help usher in a new vehicle that can put the arrogant Italians - who think Ford cars are wimpy, slow, and ugly - into their place.

So he hires Miles, a disgruntled Brit who’s moved to California with his wife (Caitriona Balfe) and son (Noah Jupe) in search of the next big thing, but has been struggling to keep the lights on at his mechanic shop. To his credit, it’s refreshing to see Bale doing something a little more closer to his wheelhouse and not doused in heavy garb like in “Vice.” He’s not playing some figure or character, but an honest man trying to make a living.

No doubt, Ioacca sees the potential in these two guys and how they can change the image of Ford even if the head honcho Henry Ford II (a terrific Tracy Letts) and his second-in-command (Josh Lucas) don’t see the viability in pushing their money and resources to the breaking point.

James Mangold, last seen with the R rated “Logan,” stages two exhilarating races - Daytona and Le Mans - as the main attraction in “Ford V Ferrari” and there’s a daft eloquence to the way him and editors Andrew Buckand, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt cut together each piece of the puzzle.

Granted, there’s a certain inevitability to what’s at stake (maybe you know what happens, and maybe you don’t) - but even the more traditional aspects of the story goes down smoothly. The whipper-snapper attitudes of both Damon and Bale give the film a dose of energy when not on the race-track, and when the engines start revving and the cars start throttling to the finish line, Mangold puts the viewer in the driver’s seat and doesn’t let off the gas.

Grade: B

Disney/Fox will release Ford V Ferrari in theaters on November 15th and the film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival

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