Ford vs Ferrari movie review: Christian Bale, Matt Damon's film on car racing is a sheer delight on the big screen

Ford vs Ferrari shows nothing beats the experience of bombastic sound design, tires squealing, and sparks flying on a massive screen.

Mihir Fadnavis November 14, 2019 09:43:10 IST

3.5/5

Are you one of those people who watched Ron Howard’s Rush half a decade ago, and have since been wondering why there are not more biographies about race drivers? Your prayers have been answered – Ford vs Ferrari is the exciting, spectacular-looking, crowd-pleasing, big-budget star-powered fix you need. Whether you are a fan of racing or not, this is a slice of entertainment you must not miss in theaters. 

Ford vs Ferrari movie review Christian Bale Matt Damons film on car racing is a sheer delight on the big screen

Matt Damon and Christian Bale in a still from Ford vs Ferrari. YouTube

Ford vs Ferrari, as you know puts together Christian Bale and Matt Damon but they do not play the titular roles. The story takes place back in the '60s when the American Ford company is struggling to achieve the racing power of Ferrari in the Le Mans circuit. Damon plays legendary ex-driver and race director Caroll Shelby, who shepherds Bale’s Ken Miles, the renegade who could just be fast enough to take Ferrari to task but Ford’s corporate battles seem to be bigger obstacles than the technical ones.

Make no mistake, the story is super formulaic, ticking off every box of clichés with great enthusiasm, at times even seemingly aware of of this. The story was most probably written in two days by a committee or a robot in a studio. Oddly, the film itself has a subplot about the necessity of creative people needing to be in charge of big decisions than a corporate committee with no skill. But this is not a film about story beats – this is a movie that offers a whole assortment of incredibly thrilling sequences of racing, compounded by James Mangold’s strong direction, a few hilarious moments, and the best male pairing in years. It is all engineered to reach the widest possible audience, and the broad strokes are colourful, exciting, and memorable, if without a great amount of detail. 

You never feel the lengthy runtime of two and a half hours because there is a lot happening within the film – including the cartoonish skirmishes between Shelby and Miles, and the asinine antics of the suits in the Ford company trying to consolidate power, as well as the subplot between Miles and his wife (Catriona Balfe), who takes pleasure in watching the two grown men behave like idiots.

But it is the cars roaring around the tracks that will have your mouth watering – seldom do movies accurately capture the frenetic energy and anger of cars racing around the track. Mangold does well to deliver steady shots, where the geography of the races is clear to the viewer, allowing those watching to feel overwhelmed by the race pace. Fans of Formula 1 will get a chuckle or two at the leisurely pit stops depicted in the races, but also an idea of how low-fi and analog racing used to be. The film also does well in depicting how racing is a lot like a travelling circus show: simple entertainment to audiences but mainly engineered to cater to the whims and egos of the super rich. 

During an era when ‘movie stars’ are fading, Ford vs Ferrari is a great reminder of why Hollywood needs them, and how easy it is for us to be swayed by their charms on the big screen – that way it is, in fact, more effective than Quentin Tarantino’s film from earlier this year.

You might be satisfied with whatever you see on streaming services but nothing beats the experience of bombastic sound design, tires squealing, and sparks flying on a massive screen, and the joy of watching terrific actors rub each other in stardust in theaters – so go ahead and book your tickets.

Try not to lose your temper, however, when you notice the whiskey bottles in the film have been completely blurred because our censor board does not want you to turn into an alcoholic while watching a racing movie.

Rating: ***1/2

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