Notes on “Ford v Ferrari”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

“Ford v Ferrari” is nearly 200 minutes long, ludicrous for a car-racing flick, and its narrative incorporates a fair amount of padding. The scenes centering on the family of driver Ken Miles are particularly unnecessary. Watching them we can feel director James Mangold straining for a context beyond the dudes-tinkering-with-cars frame of the material. Despite some nice work on the part of Caitriona Balfe, deliciously MILF-y as Miles’ wife, these scenes never don’t feel schematic, and they detract from the real heart of the film, the relationship between the temperamental gearheads played by Christian Bale (Miles) and Matt Damon. Damon, as automotive designer Carroll Shelby, delivers a solid and generous performance worthy of the workmanlike character he’s playing. He knows he’s there to support Bale, and we never catch him trying to steal the limelight. As for Bale, he provides further evidence that he’s one of the most impressive actors in movies. He’s very technical, and something of a showoff, but he’s the rare actor who’s capable of creating depth through technique. Like Lon Chaney, he conjures his characters by screwing himself up — by sidling up to grotesqueness. More often than not, Chaney needed makeup. Bale seems to get there purely through some interior process, and his characters are strengthened — vivified — by the joy he takes in mugging. He’s the opposite of Meryl Streep, whose technique is often an end in itself. Because the movie is about men testing themselves against danger, it’s been compared to the work of Howard Hawks, but to my mind it’s closer in spirit to a heist film or “The Right Stuff”: it’s a brash tinkerer-schemer’s Odyssey, a movie in which we root for the heroes to put one over on the world. It has what few movies today have: a sense of game, of manful dauntlessness and pride in getting your way. These traits come through in spite of Mangold’s instinct to overdraw every detail, an instinct that sometimes makes the movie feel caricatured. (Some would say this is an upshot of Mangold’s devotion to realism, but his movies often strike me as mannered and overly punched up.) This comes through most clearly in the portrayal of the Ford hierarchy, whose constituents are trotted out mechanically whenever the heroes need a foil. Jon Bernthal, who plays Lee Iaccoca, foregrounds the character’s smugness, but he doesn’t seem capable or sensitive enough to give that smugness a facet worth appreciating. Fortunately, he fades as the movie progresses.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Movies, Performers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Notes on “Ford v Ferrari”

  1. Fenster says:

    Better to pad by adding material to a movie of normal length that gets the job done rather than cut into bone.

    As for Bale, it’s hard to draw a line between “exploring and pushing new dimensions to a character” and showing off. I think he crosses that line a bit too much. Just as I was settling into suspension of disbelief of a pretty unbelievable character–bam!–I’d get a slap across the face reminder that this is *acting*.

    Maybe it’s all meta. It takes something of a daredevil to do what his character does, so maybe Bale thought the best way to get that across is to push things past the edge with abandon in his acting.


  2. Will S. says:

    Reblogged this on Patriactionary and commented:
    Great review. I enjoyed Ford v Ferrari, and it was another great review, that of Steve Sailer, which induced me to see it (well, that and the fact that my fiancee was interested to see it, which surprised and delighted me). Nice to see a great old-fashioned men’s movie, about men, white men in fact, doing masculine things, i.e. adventure, meeting challenges. And it was very well done, despite some imperfections.


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