PG-13 for swearing, car wrecks, and people dying from car wrecks. I feel like that might be spoiler territory, telling you that people die in car wrecks. But you are aware...they are car wrecks. When someone gets into a car wreck, one of the more common questions is, "Did they die?" Well, this is a racing movie, so car wrecks get bigger and badder. When they get bigger and badder, people tend to die more often. There's also some fighting and I can't stress how fast and loose Ford v Ferrari plays with the swearing. Like, it's adorable because a lot of it is British, but it's still swearing. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
If you told me that Ford v Ferrari would be one of the most fun movies I watched in 2019, I wouldn't believe you. Despite my almost religious watching of The Fast and the Furious movies, I could tell you that I'm not a racing fan. I don't actually like sports. I don't even really like a lot of sports movies. I know! Blasphemy! When I saw the trailer for Ford v Ferrari, you could hear my eyes rolling back into my head. You could even hear those rolling eyes over the sound of an audible groan that I made in the theater. They kept showing that trailer. It didn't look interesting. I looked like every other movie I don't care about. Then it got nominated for an Academy Award, which means that I had to see it.
Yeah, I didn't win Best Picture. It probably shouldn't have won Best Picture. But despite an overly long runtime, I absolutely adored this movie. Now, I have to caveat a lot of things on here before I got into my diatribe for why Ford v Ferrari is ultimately about the characters and not the plot. I know that, apparently, Ford v Ferrari gets nothing right about racing. There's about a million mistakes that this movie makes and car fans tend to get up in arms about these things. As a nerd, I get the impulse. I don't think I usually let the minutiae get me down over a thing that I really like. Like, I adored Gravity and most space things. Ad Astra confused me with its science all throughout the film. But again, I don't know how important these things are. When I hear gearheads (That's what they're called, right?) wax poetic about why it shouldn't work like that, I tend to harumph. But for all I know, these things are important. As an outsider to racing culture, I can say that the movie is meant for me. It allows me to see what is interesting in something that I find fundamentally boring.
Because racing, to me, is a lot about the machine. Whoever has the fastest car wins. Ford v Ferrari doesn't deny that the fastest car is a huge element of racing, but it really stresses that it is the man behind the machine that has talent. The devotion that this movie has for Ken Miles makes the movie worth watching. Now, I don't know the real story of Ken Miles. My wife Wikipedia'd everything, as she is wont to do. But that really just gives us a peek into the loosey-goosey facts around Miles. I don't know how hotheaded he was. I don't even know if he was as talented as the movie portrays him. But what Mangold does is present a story about a complicated character who embodies a character type that works really well in this world.
I have to treat Ken Miles as a character. Because I don't know the real guy, I can only watch him from a narrative perspective. Bale portrays Miles as a sympathetic jerk. He's the Mr. Darcy of international racing. (For all we know, Mr. Darcy would have made a superlative international racer, so don't argue with me.) He's this guy who is filled with love and is brimming with it. So many stories present the gruff butthead as someone isolated and removed from all relationships. Instead, Miles has the love of a wife who understands, but doesn't necessarily put up, with all of his malarky. She sees a good man who loves what he does and loves his family. I adore this in a protagonist. Yeah, he's a jerk. He has a short fuse, which gives his character something to do throughout the film. A perfect protagonist shouldn't be leading this story. The conflict of the film comes from the fact that corporate suits don't want him to represent the company with his bad attitude. He's a guy who gets in his own way.
Which makes his character choices all the more insane. I want to remind myself right now to talk about Ford v Ferrari's commentary on corporate America, but I don't want to derail from this look at Ken Miles. (I really hope that this reminds me to do this later.) Miles internal conflict is that he knows that he is right. But instead of approaching other pigheaded people logically and calmly, he just does what he wants. He's right. Mangold and Bale craft the story to let us know that Ken Miles's choice is ultimately the right choice. But it's how he does things that is toxic. That's what makes the end of the movie so insane. We've seen the story before. For Ken Miles to grow as a character, he must abandon his pride and play the game. But it is playing the game that actually destroys him. That's insane to me.
The whole movie sets up for Ken Miles to learn a lesson about humanity. It is the lesson in humanity that fails him. We are so ready for Miles to trust people to be fundamentally moral and good and he is actually burned by it. (Pun wildly inappropriate right now.) Because Ken Miles played ball for two seconds, he lost the one thing that he actually wanted out of life. It's something that I never would have seen coming. We have been so bred to understand that an internal conflict is something that must be overcome. Instead, we get this deep understanding of why Ken Miles is the way he is. I don't want to go all Ayn Rand into this reading because that can only be problematic, but Miles has probably been through this before. His real growth, and I doubt that this is how it played out in reality, is that he was able to accept that loss and move on, never to win LeMans again.
But let's look at the guts of this movie. I had this theory a while ago that any movie with a "versus" in the title was terrible. Now I have to retract that. But the name of the movie is Ford v Ferrari. I hate corporate film. I know that there are a lot of You've Got Mail and CastAway fans out there (I like Tom Hanks, though). But those movies are as corporate as they get. (I like The Lego Movie! Shhhh!) I knew that Ford was going to be the good guy and that rich Ferrari was going to be the bad guy. This is about one of those moments where blue collar stands up to the rich and rubs it in its face. I am born and bred Detroit (Royal Oak, fine). My dad helped design one of the Mustangs. My entire life until my most recent car has been on a family plan. Knowing that Ford was going to rep blue collar was a genius movie.
But then Ford ends up being this corporate entity that is kind of soulless and Ferrari, despite being the antagonist of the film, is about artistry? That's something I didn't see. I feel bad for the friends and family of Ken Beebe, by the way. That guy comes across like a monster. He might be 2019 Cinema's greatest villain. (Sorry, Thanos.) There's something so prideful of everyone at Ford. The movie starts off with Carroll Shelby making a deal with these guys. Ken Miles warns him that they are the devil and, like Shelby, you can't help but dismiss these as the ramblings of a bitter turd. After all, Lee Iacocca played by The Punisher is a great guy. He's charming. He seems to really care about the car. They're the underdog!
But then the movie just turns hard on Ford. Everything about them seems slimy. I loved Ford growing up. (We're not playing this game right now, reader. You have your opinion; I have mine.) It's such a great move to make this about the boots on the ground versus the public image. I suppose that another motif running through some of the movies this year is the haves versus the have-nots. Because as much as the final result of the film is about a Ford car going against a Ferrari at LeMans, the story is about the boots on the ground versus the people who don't want to get their hands dirty. Henry Ford II comes across like a huge butthead in the name of profit. He threatens to fire workers who don't come up with ideas for how to make Ford more successful. He eats extravagant lunches and leaves the race at crucial times. Ken Beebe is all about his own pride and how the image of Ford should be perfect, getting in the way of actual progress. As much as the film is about Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby's understanding of how corporate America functions is as much of a lesson as anything else.
This movie is so good. Do you know what it is? It's the movie that you watch with your father-in-law and cheer audibly as the film progresses. It's a film for all viewers, shy die hard sticklers. It is entertaining, yet poignant. It's got heart, but also has a ton of fun along the way. I loved this film and I never thought for a second that I would.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.