Almost 3 years after the critical and box office success of the superhero film Logan, James Mangold has returned with a feture that's right up his alley. Ford v Ferrari is the story of how Ford Motor Company bucked the odds by defeating Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Co-written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller, Ford v Ferrari is an exciting film that blends fantastic race action with emotional drama. With Matt Damon and Christian Bale providing outstanding performances, they help to drive its more moving scenes and allow audiences to recognize the beauty of competition.

Also starring Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone and Ray McKinnon, Ford v Ferrari tells of Henry Ford II (Letts), after Ferrari turned down Ford's offer to buy the Italian car manufacturer, and how that resulted in a furious man looking to beat one of the best. Ford, through vice-president Lee Iacocca (Bernthal) enlisted the services of Carroll Shelby, owner of Shelby Automobiles (and a former Le Mans winner in 1956), and Ken Miles (Bale), a professional driver and struggling mechanic with a bit of a mean streak.

So what is this movie really about? I already mentioned that Ford v Ferrari focuses on competition; so you can also see the importance of teamwork. Also, with Shelby and Miles sharing the common goal of wanting to win at all costs, Mangold's latest is ultimately about friendship. What makes the friendship between Shelby and Miles interesting is how contentious it is. They share the same objective but both men have varied approaches to achieving success. Neither man is completely right but they're not wrong, either. As long as they see the big picture (which they do) they know they can create something special. Spoiler alert – they did exactly that but to witness the obstacles they overcame, specifically obstacles provided by Ford Motor Company, is proof that greatness, regardless of the forum, can be and is almost always misunderstood.

Because Ford v Ferrari's backbone is friendship, Mangold understands he needs charismatic leads that gel seamlessly and fight with each other convincingly (he's successfully explored that dynamic before in Logan, Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma). In other words, Mangold trusted Damon and Bale to deliver and they did just that. Besides providing memorable turns, the pair was able to convincingly convey the relationship Shelby and Miles had, ups and downs included. And with the film's tone being relatively light, it's easier to see that disagreements can be healthy. If Damon and Bale didn't deliver this would be a less engaging film that would've leaned on the race scenes to win the audience.

Luckily Ford v Ferrari doesn't have to depend entirely on the action, but just in case the racing scenes are outstanding. They were well planned, well shot and successfully place you in the middle of it. So with the cast firing on all cylinders (Lucas plays the antagonist beautifully; Bernthal does well without chewing up scenery; Balfe is fantastic as Ken's supporting wife who seems to be the only person who completely understands her husband; Letts is solid and also emotes that obsessive desire to win), Ford v Ferrari strikes a good balance of sports story and emotional drama.

Not lost is how American pride lingers throughout. For some, Ford v Ferrari translates to America v the World, especially since the companies are run differently. It can be seen as a culture clash, and thus Ford v Ferrari could be mistakenly be seen as promoting the American way is the right (and only) way. It honestly doesn't; the film allows audiences to understand it's great to be prideful. Mangold doesn't focus on nationalism, but it's there and could be seen a negative within a mostly positive film.

Regardless, racing fans will enjoy the inside look into the sport (and how it reveres both Shelby and Miles, considering they're seen as mavericks and trailblazers within the racing community), while cinephiles will enjoy its story and themes. With that balance, Ford v Ferrari is fun and entertaining and is worth a look.

4 stars out of 5


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