Ford V. Ferrari Races Into a Photo Finish

Star-studded and well written, Ford V. Ferrari rolls into first place at the box office.



Travis Flippo, Writer, Auto Enthusiast

On November 15, the new James Mangold film (director of Walk The Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan) was released to very positive reviews. Ford V. Ferrari is about the racing duel between automobile magnate Ford, and handcrafted Italian auteur, Ferrari. After a successful opening weekend, the film has gone on to earn $64.2 million worldwide across this week.


The film begins in 1959 with the last time Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but is forced to retire from racing due to a heart condition. After Shelby’s Le Mans race, we see the state of the Ford Motor Company in the early 1960s, and it is decrepit. Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is dissatisfied with the way the company is headed and looks at Ferrari as an example of ingenuity. A merger deal to buy Ferrari is tried, but Enzo Ferrari turns it down as he would lose control of his racing team. Ford then wants to make a racing team of his own to beat Ferrari at his own game. 


Carroll Shelby is enlisted by Ford to help design a car capable of running all 24 hours in the Le Mans race. Ken Miles (Christian Bale) is brought in, a friend of Shelby’s and a professional racer. Together, Shelby and Miles develop the Ford GT40 with help from a large budget in Ford’s racing team.


The Ford higher-ups do not want Miles to race or design the car, as he is a public relations nightmare with his British snark and short temper. They ask Shelby to reconsider the driver and he declines immediately. After the GT40 is designed, Shelby takes Henry Ford II for a drive and bets Ford that if Miles wins the Daytona race, then he will race at Le Mans. If Miles loses then Ford absorbs the Shelby America Motor Company. 


At the Daytona race, the Ford team is held back by not allowing Miles to push the car to 7000 RPM. However in the last laps of the race, Shelby holds up a chalk sign saying “7000RPM GO LIKE HELL” to give Miles the edge. This leads Miles to win the Daytona race and go on to Le Mans. 


At Le Mans, the only real competition is the Ferrari team with four drivers. Starting the race, Miles is unable to close the door and the crew chief hits the door with a sledgehammer to make sure it is closed. The Ferrari team keeps the lead until Miles is able to push the GT40 to 218mph, its top speed. Keeping the car’s endurance in check, the entire brake system is swapped out for the remainder of the race. The Ferrari drivers are knocked out of the race in crashes and Miles and the rest of the Ford team take first place, albeit with some difficulty.


This film gives a solid representation of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and the R&D of the now-famous GT40 race model. The portrayal of the bromance between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby is easily the most appealing part of the film due to the chemistry among Christian Bale and Matt Damon. The setting of 1960s car companies provide  a retro feel that gives a consummate sheen of style all over the film, a style which is absent from many films in this era. This film is probably the best and most focused film of this year even at its 150-minute length. I think it deserves a best supporting actor nomination for Christian Bale at the very least, because his performance makes the film what it is. Overall, I would say this film is essentially a sports movie, but it is one with surly, crotchety car guys with a passion for speed and competition among foreign car companies. This film could be compared to the likes of Talladega Knights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, but maybe less absurd and more about the intensity of professional auto racing.