Ford v Ferrari v The Film
More Fun if You Don’t Know the History
It’s a film about racing in the 1960’s, featuring some of the most iconic automotive pioneers in history. Yet, I probably would have enjoyed the film a lot more if I wasn’t such a car nerd.
I saw Ford v Ferrari late on a Saturday night, so the theater was packed. I observed the crowd before the previews dimmed the lights. There were a lot of kids, young kids, out with friends or family. The kind of crowd you’d find at a screening of a Fast ‘n Furious movie – juvenile.
Sprinkled among Generation Z were a handful of older couples who either knew the story or simply fell into the marketing campaign. Joining me was my oldest friend, his long-term girlfriend, and his 13-year old brother, whom I’ve known since he was in preschool. I didn’t know how I was going to write this review since so many other automotive journalists have already covered the meat and bones of Ford v Ferrari. That was until I noticed that my friend’s little brother was asking a lot of questions: “Which one is Carroll Shelby?” “What’s a V8?” and “Did this really happen?”
Social media has spoiled me into forgetting that not everyone I know has a weirdly strong opinion on station wagons, and finds 10mm socket memes hilarious. The same way I don’t know anything about sports, or the names of whomever will be performing at the next Super Bowl. The internet has spoken on Ford v Ferrari, and everyone agrees that it is a good movie. Beyond that, the reviews divide into articles that give a history lesson, and articles either praising the 1960’s or condemning them.
I think Ford vs Ferrari is a more enjoyable movie if you forget it’s based on true events. There is no way to give this history the proper treatment without turning it into a multiple-episode mini-series. Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca and Enzo Ferrari were all great men, and like all great men they had their fair share of flaws (name someone who doesn’t). There is not enough time to fully portray each one within the time frame of a two and half hours.
That’s why all the characters in the movie felt – at times – one-dimensional. The film itself makes it seem like the entire series of events was kick-started because Enzo Ferrari called Henry Ford II fat, turning the movie into a battle of fragile egos. Ford v Ferrari is history being told by Hollywood, so naturally they took a Snapchat approach to the story to make it sexier. Like casting Jon Bernthal (The Punisher) to play Lee Iacocca, or having Matt Damon wrestle around (I wish they hadn’t – ed.) with Christian Bale. This is a movie, after all, and not – notably – a documentary.
The fact that I know the story and its many characters meant that I couldn’t stop nitpicking the accuracy of the movie. I enjoyed the movie, but if I wasn’t such a car nerd I probably would have praised the movie more. From the reviews I’ve read, I found out that car nerds enjoyed seeing vintage Shelby Cobras and Ferraris on the big screen. Regular people enjoyed seeing Batman being helped by Jason Bourne to win a race. Everyone in between was simply trying to get views on social media by taking a political tone.
The only award winners in Ford v Ferrari should be stunt coordinator Robert Nagle, who went above and beyond to give us the high-revving action we wanted to see. No Dodge Chargers fighting nuclear submarines, but good old-fashion speed porn. I will say that while all the cars in the movie are real, I could still spot where they used the Blackbird, a stunt car with no body except a roll-cage. Thanks to CGI, it can be made to look like any vehicle in post-editing. The film is also one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in recent years. It is filled with stunning visuals that’ll have you yearning for a convertible on a canyon road, driving toward a sunset.
Go watch Carroll, Ken and Ford v Ferrari, but watch it the same way you would watch any other Disney movie. Strictly entertainment…but not, thankfully, Mickey Mouse.