When was the last time Christian Bale got to show off his cheerful side? And how long has it been since an auto-racing movie had the potential to entertain audiences that could care less about the fastest cars on the track?
James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari unites both of those assets via high-quality, old-school Hollywood filmmaking that balances plentiful thrills and laughs with commendable grace.
The fact-based tale of the titular, mid-1960s battle for automotive supremacy at the 24 Hours of Le Mans harnesses grand tension not merely from revered car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and wild-card driver Ken Miles (Bale) matching wits and talents with their Italian competition, but in battles against their shortsighted Detroit employers.
Among its many rich showdowns, the film’s screenwriting team crafts a terrific rivalry between Shelby’s crew and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), a Ford executive with a stick up his butt and a frustrating inability to see that success lies beyond brand consistency.
But while the sharp human drama is key to establishing bonds with characters risking their lives (and livelihoods) to chase greatness, it’s primarily an inroad to the racing itself — and Mangold doesn’t disappoint, turning each moment in the driver’s seat into an absolute blast.
Starts Nov. 15