|'Ford v Ferrari': Or, Goliath v David|
|By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic|
03:39PM / Thursday, November 21, 2019
The red-blooded American portion of me, the part that in my youth soaked up John Wayne movies, was gratified by the spirit of director James Mangold's studiously executed "Ford v Ferrari." Rah, rah and all that good stuff.
Ferrari had been dominating world auto racing and its reign might have gone on for a bit longer had it not been for il Commendatore's dissing of the Deuce. That's car enthusiast colloquium for Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II. And the automobile industry version of "The Cask of Amontillado" to which I allude concerns Ferrari adding insult to industry when he not only rebuffed the Detroit magnate's attempt to buy his Prancing Horse magnificence, but also called him fat. Ford screamed bloody revenge and swore he would beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
History will do that. Just ask Helen of Troy. But while no land was exchanged following the bitter war that ensued between Ferrari and Ford, and no one had to learn another language in the conquest that resulted, the American pride that was at stake is established holy lore among gearheads. Following America's show of international might in World War II, it is both the illustrative model and postscript to that grand, swaggering flourish of what we Yanks can do when we toss enough money, determination and moxie at something.
But I must come clean, just in case the truth is broached in some segue during the impeachment hearings. I am a Tifosi. There, I've said it. While a general term for a supporter of a team, Tifosi has come to more specifically mean an ardent devotee of Scuderia Ferrari (the Ferrari racing team). Nevertheless, I think I can offer a fair judgement of the account in question, here magisterially authored with just the right amount of rough and tumble action by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller. Recusal won't be necessary.
I can't help my patriotism. It started so early, and still occupies the fantasy segments of my waking hours. I was about 5 or 6 and crying about something or other I wanted when my Dad, who I was still confusing with the televised movie images of Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart, looked down at me and said, "Next thing I know, you'll want a Ferrari." Huh? The analogy eluded me. But when said in such context by someone with the unquestionable, combined integrity of Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart and Daniel Goldberger, I figured that must really be something worth having. He could have just as easily said Rolls-Royce, Bentley or Cadillac. But he said Ferrari. My mission was clear.
In all fairness to Dad, without a crystal ball he couldn't say Ford GT40, a miniature model of which shares a hallowed spot alongside a couple Ferraris atop my writing desk. It would be many years later that Ford's contender to the throne makes its debut at Le Mans, the appearance made possible not solely by the Ford Motor Corp., but by the synergistic, colorful collaboration dramatized in "Ford v Ferrari," doubtlessly the most authentically realized car movie since "Grand Prix' (1966).
But don't laugh when I say there ought to be an asterisk next to that last sentence, informing quite seriously that John Lassiter's animated masterpiece, "Cars" (2006), deserves almost as high ranking for its contribution to the poetic rhapsodizing of automobilia. You see, there is a curious disconnect that takes place during the process of making car-related movies, a filmic phenomenon attributable to the estimable passion automobiles evoke in us all on their own. Can any dramatic description approximate the emotion you felt when you got that first car?
Hence, it is to Mangold's credit, with the thespic help of Matt Damon and Christian Bale as famed race-car builder Carroll Shelby and race-car driver extraordinaire, Ken Miles, respectively, that the storied Goliath versus David saga is made exciting, car nut or not. Riding in tandem with scintillating racing scenes doubtlessly supercharged by computer magic is the ennobling camaraderie between Shelby and Miles, a smattering of mechanics' jargon for oil-soaked enthusiasts, and a more than subtextual, Plato-worthy meditation on the group vs. the individual.
As reputably told here with little Hollywoodization, including the internecine warfare among the suits, replete with a snide, detractive villain hellbent on stealing the glory from Shelby and Miles, the incorporated, truth telling backstory openly contradicts the propaganda.
For all the publicity extolling the virtues of Ford, the fact is that while the GT40 did use a homegrown V8, the chassis was designed and built in England, based on the British Lola Mk6. While Ford's bankrolling was indispensable, "twas the blood, sweat and racing ingenuity of two car pals that suggest the film might have been more properly titled "Shelby & Miles v Ferrari."
"Ford v Ferrari," rated PG13, is a Twentieth Century Fox release directed by James Mangold and stars Matt Damon, Christian Bale and Caitriona Balfe. Running time: 152 minutes