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“Ford v Ferrari” brings a thrilling motorsports story to the big screen

By Sam Gurdus

Staff Editor

“Ford v Ferrari” tells the story of the famous race car designer Carroll Shelby and fearless driver Ken Miles’ attempt at winning the 1966 race known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Backed by the Ford Motor Company, the duo hoped to compete against Enzo Ferrari’s well-established record.

This highly rated film stands out for its excellent (and historically accurate) plot, complex characters, interesting dialogue and thrilling racing scenes.

The film begins with Shelby replaying his winning of the 1959 version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his mind. He awakes from his daydream and the image fades to reveal Shelby in his doctor’s office. Due to a heart condition, we learn that he can no longer race. 

The Ford Motor Company later approaches Shelby, hoping that he could be the one to help them win the 1966 Le Mans. He’s interested and pitches the idea to race car driver Miles. While skeptical, Miles is intrigued. Together, the team begins to build the car that would allow them to compete against Ferrari.

The Ford executives then decide that they would prefer a Ford driver in the car, instead of Miles, who didn’t fit their image of a Ford driver. Shelby takes Henry Ford for a ride in the car, giving him a taste of how incredibly terrifying and thrilling racing is. Ford breaks down into tears and Shelby suggests that Miles race Ford’s drivers to decide if Miles can drive in Le Mans.

The next paragraph contains minor spoilers!

Miles wins the race, meaning that he can now compete alongside Ford’s other drivers in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Assuming that “Ford v Ferrari’s” purpose is to accurately and entertainingly share the story of the buildup to and competition around the 1966 Le Mans, it has done a fantastic job. It accurately represents the story, while keeping it entertaining. “Ford v Ferrari” appeals to a wide audience, including regular viewers, motorheads and racing fans alike. 

The film features Matt Damon and Christian Bale in major roles. Bale is known for his intense acting style, making him a perfect fit for the unpredictable and animated character of Miles.

“Ford v Ferrari” was directed by film director and screenwriter James Mangold, who is notable for movies like “The Wolverine” and “Logan.” “Ford v Ferrari” takes a sharp turn from these types of movies, being a sports drama as opposed to a superhero movie.

“Ford v Ferrari” is full of inspiring dialog and stories. A few minutes into the film, we watch as Shelby is speeding up a hill. In a voiceover, Shelby says, “There’s a point at 7,000 RPM where everything fades: the machine becomes weightless. It just disappears. All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time. 7,000 RPM, that’s where you meet it. That’s where it waits for you.”

This type of dialogue adds a lot to the quality of the film. It evokes emotion in the viewer and adds interest to the story.

The film does an incredible job with its racing scenes. As the viewer, you feel like you are really there and a part of the story. Take the 7000 RPM scene from the Daytona race, for example. In it, we watch as Miles competes against Ford’s other drivers to determine if he can qualify for and participate in Le Mans.

There’s a few laps left. Miles is lagging behind. In a hurry, Shelby writes something on a chalkboard and jogs out to the asphalt. He holds up the sign, saying “7,000+ Go like hell.” Previously, Shelby had told Miles to keep the car below 6,000 RPM to avoid the car coming apart. He can now push it to its true limits.

Miles begins to pass the other drivers. He picks up speed and, seconds before the finish, he takes first place. The cars fly past the finish line. Miles wins. Adrenaline flowing, you return to reality and realize that what you just witnessed was nothing more than a scene in a movie. This kind of quality filmmaking is what really sets “Ford v Ferrari” apart from other racing films.

“Ford v Ferrari” does character development very well. You can’t help but root for Shelby and Miles, while despising the Ford executives. It isn’t just the plot, though. The writers did a great job with the characters’ dialogue and the casting director chose the right actors. 

The soundtrack in this film is nothing new. It doesn’t take away anything, but isn’t particularly innovative or moving. If someone told me that the music used in the film was taken from a royalty free source, I might have believed them. This is the one section of the movie that I feel could be improved upon.

It’s incredible what the creators of this film were able to achieve. While the production ran into some hurdles, they managed to pull through and present a high quality final product. 

Where other films struggle with balancing entertainment and historical accuracy, “Ford v Ferrari” excels. Whether you think you’re interested in motorsports or not, I strongly encourage you to give this film a view.

Featured image (at the top of this post): A Ford GT40 sits on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. PHOTO CREDIT: edvvc / Flickr

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