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Ford v Ferrari (2019)

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American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Director:

James Mangold
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Popularity
5 ( 4)

Matt Damon and Christian Bale Bonded After a Fist Fight

The Ford v Ferrari co-stars put up their dukes to get into their characters' heads, and they break down this hilarious and heartfelt scene for IMDb.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Damon ... Carroll Shelby
Christian Bale ... Ken Miles
Jon Bernthal ... Lee Iacocca
Caitriona Balfe ... Mollie Miles
Josh Lucas ... Leo Beebe
Noah Jupe ... Peter Miles
Tracy Letts ... Henry Ford II
Remo Girone ... Enzo Ferrari
Ray McKinnon ... Phil Remington
JJ Feild ... Roy Lunn
Jack McMullen ... Charlie Agapiou
Corrado Invernizzi ... Franco Gozzi
Joe Williamson ... Don Frey
Ian Harding ... Ford Executive Ian
Christopher Darga ... John Holman
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Storyline

American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They took the american dream for a ride


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some language and peril | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Language:

English | Italian | French | Japanese

Release Date:

15 November 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ford v Ferrari See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$97,600,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$31,474,958, 17 November 2019

Gross USA:

$83,797,945

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$146,550,272
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Atmos

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Second time that Matt Damon has played a character named Carroll. He previously played one of Tina Fey's love interests on 30 Rock who was not only named Carol but who also was a pilot. See more »

Goofs

The famous picture of the three Ford GT40's crossing the finish line at Le Mans in 1966 has them staggered a few yards from each other, not in a straight nose line. See more »

Quotes

[Shelby sees Enzo Ferrari arguing with his team]
Carroll Shelby: I don't speak Italian, but he ain't happy.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
I'd have preferred to see Michael Mann's version, but this is an impressive and heartfelt study of friendship and triumph
1 December 2019 | by BertautSee all my reviews

Based on A.J. Baime's Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans (2009), written by Jason Keller, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, and directed by James Mangold, Le Mans '66 (released in North American with the equally generic title of Ford v Ferrari) counts Michael Mann as an executive producer. This is notable, as Mann himself has been trying to bring an adaptation of Brock Yates's Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races (1991) to the screen since at least 1993. Indeed, at one point, Mann's Enzo Ferrari was set to star Christian Bale, before he was replaced with Hugh Jackman. Whether or not it will ever be made is open to speculation, but it seems unlikely in the wake of Mann's involvement with Le Mans '66, an excellently made but unadventurous movie.

Mangold is a fine director, but he's no Mann, nowhere near, and the film did, to a certain extent, leave me pondering what kind of kinetic brilliance Mann would have brought to similar material. In contrast to Mann's body of work, Le Mans '66 could never be accused of breaking any new ground or trying anything especially original - it hits all the beats, it hits them well, but it never strays from the formula. Looking at issues such as friendship, male pride, personal integrity, sticking it to the Man, art v commerce, individuals v corporations; it is, in essence, a thematically broad and aesthetically anonymous pre-auteur theory audience-pleaser made with the technology and aesthetic sensibilities of modernity. And whilst the individual parts may be unsatisfactorily safe and familiar, the whole is unexpectedly accomplished and immensely enjoyable.

The film begins in 1959 as Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) wins that year's Le Mans, only to be told he has a heart condition and must stop racing. Cut to 1963, and Henry Ford II (a superb Tracy Letts, who steals every scene he's in) has just had an offer to purchase Ferrari rejected and been personally insulted by Ferrari himself (Remo Girone). Livid, Ford II determines to build a car capable of winning Le Mans, which Ferrari has won in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, and 1963. Ford Vice President and General Manager Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) contacts Shelby, the last non-Ferrari driver to have won the event, and asks him to design a car. He gets to work but says they'll need a great driver as well as a well-designed car. He reaches out to Ken Miles (Bale), who has a reputation as one of the best drivers in the world, and is renowned for his almost supernatural ability to identify problems in test cars after only one or two laps. However, because of his volatility and unpredictable personality, few want to work with him. He comes on board, but immediately clashes with the Ford executives, particularly Senior Executive Vice President Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas).

Le Mans '66 is somewhat similar to Michael Mann's Ali (2001), insofar as it uses the grandiose moments of history to tell an intimate story - Mangold uses the determination to win Le Mans '66 as the background against which to examine issues such as friendship and the clash between gifted individuals for whom success is its own reward and corporations who don't see value in anything unless it's monetarily successful. Indeed, the argument could be made that the film is actually a commentary on the Hollywood studio system, with Shelby and Miles representing independent filmmakers who love the craft and see the medium as an art-form, whilst the Ford executives represent the studio, always more concerned with the bottom dollar than artistic integrity, always getting in the way of the people who, if left alone to work, could produce something spectacular (we'll ignore the fact that the whole thing feels like it was made by an algorithm designed to hit as many clichéd feel-good moments as possible).

The film is also extremely funny in places, especially in a scene where Shelby shows up at Miles's house, and the two get into a fight on the street. Miles's wife Mollie (an underused Caitriona Balfe) emerges from the house, looks at the two men fighting, goes back inside, and remerges with a garden chair, a drink, and a copy of Better Living. She then sits down to watch the action. It's a hilarious moment, but it's one with great thematic importance - this is very much an androcentric world (Mollie is virtually the only female in the entire film), but for this brief moment, the audience is allowed to pull back and laugh at the utter ridiculousness of competitive maleness - boys will be clichéd boys, always trying to outdo each other, and getting all worked up over something as pointless as a fast car.

This thematic focus, however, is not to say the film ignores the intricacies of racing; on the contrary, there's a huge amount of techno-babble concerning vectors, aerodynamics, the mathematics of torque, the torsion of metal, and the ins and outs of physics. Additionally, although thematically, the focus isn't on the races themselves, there's no denying that the aesthetic design of these scenes is exemplary, albeit familiar. Mann would have done wonders here, but Mangold, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, and sound designers David Giammarco and Jay Wilkinson have crafted some truly intense moments. For the most part, Mangold and Papamichael avoid any objective shots (for example, there are no overheads giving us a good vantage of the entire race), and there are very few shots showing us something that Miles is unable to see. The scenes aren't shot in the first-person, but our vision is anchored to his. This, of course, contributes to a subjective focalisation and creates the sense of being in the car with him, which brings a default level of intensity, as well as giving the viewer a perfect vantage point from which to see just how fast these guys are going and how difficult what they do actually is.

In terms of problems, there are only two of significance. The first concerns just how safe and rudimentary the film is. Aesthetically, although the race scenes are kinetic and exciting, there isn't anything new or inventive in them; thematically, the film doesn't say anything we haven't heard before; and structurally, it walks a very well-worn path - chances are that everything that you think might happen in Le Mans '66 does happen. This is your basic underdog story, and it adheres rigidly to that template. The character of Beebe is a good example of just how rigidly. In essence, he's a poorly written token villain because you can't have an underdog story without a token villain (usually in the form of bureaucratic interference). In this case, when Mangold feels the need to inject some conflict into proceedings, Beebe will pop up to throw a wrench into the works. His motivation? Apart from some brief references to how he doesn't think Miles is a "Ford man", his antipathy is never explained - the character is a Swiss army knife villain who can be used for multiple purposes, a one-size-fits-all bad guy without an iota of nuance or interiority. The second problem concerns Shelby himself, who is disappointingly one-dimensional (at best), as we learn absolutely nothing about his personal life - for example, the film makes no reference to the fact that by 1963 he was on wife number three (of seven!). Who is the film's Carroll Shelby, and why should non-racing fans care about him? We never get an answer - he's Matt Damon wearing a Stetson and speaking with a Texas drawl. And that's about all the character development he gets.

Although these issues are significant in isolation, the thing about Le Mans '66 is that it's so well made, it rises above the clichéd and overly-familiar nature of many of the individual scenes, resulting in a whole that is very much more than the sum of its parts. A film about friendship and integrity rather than racing, it doesn't take any risks, nor does it bend any rules. Indeed it does nothing that could be labelled innovative. For all that, however, I couldn't help but enjoy it. It won't surprise you, it probably won't move you, it certainly won't change your life, but the storytelling is clear and refined, and the journey is one well worth taking.


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