In thinking about the movies that have been coming out lately, it has seemed that there have been a lot of history pieces coming to theaters. Of course, this is usually the time of year when Hollywood releases films that it hopes might gain Oscar notice. I guess the voters for the Academy Awards feel history is the best Oscar fodder. In recent weeks, we have had Midway and Harriet, and The Two Popes and 1917 are coming out in the coming months. So that is four. There is also the movie I saw this weekend, Ford v. Ferrari.
I did something with Ford v. Ferrari that I do not typically do before heading to the theater: I glanced at the reviews. They were incredibly high, from both common movie goers and critics, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, that is usually the kiss of death for me because it raises expectations. To be fair, though, things got off to a pretty good start. Maybe this is too obvious, but when I go to see a movie about racing, I expect to see racing. What do we get in the opening scene? Racing. Logical.
The problem with Ford v. Ferrari, though it really is a solid movie, is that the title is a little misleading. I suppose a film is more than what it goes by. After all, “What’s in a name?” But for a movie with two legendary car companies in its title, you would think they would both get equal attention. What happens instead, to put a finer point on it, should have made the movie the sobriquet Carroll Shelby v. Ford.
Now, there is a true heart to Ford v. Ferrari that makes it a movie acceptable to most any audience. The friendship between Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) was genuine in a Christian fashion. They fought for each other, but more than that they were willing to do what was right for one another even when it was difficult. Miles was a great dad, something sorely missing in our day and age. And despite Miles’ desire for personal victory at Le Mans, he was willing to sacrifice this accomplishment to go along with Ford’s (asinine) plan to have three of their cars tie for first. So there are good things to take away from this movie.
My problem with For v. Ferrari was, as I have discussed, the title. The real villain in this film was the Ford Motor Company and the bigwigs that ran it who apparently cared more about corporate image and automobile sales than the opinions of Shelby or Miles. The main antagonist was Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), who felt that the publicity to be gained from their dumb finish was too good to pass up. There is a term for villains who do heavy-handed things simply because the plot needs somebody to do dastardly act: they are called mustache twirlers. Beebe is portrayed as greedy and vindictive, and I all but rolled my eyes whenever he was on the screen.
So if you were hoping to see in Ford v. Ferrari the interplay between two iconic carmakers as they battle for industry supremacy at the race that can make or break such endeavors, you will come away disappointed. You will also be let down if you expect a ton of racing. There is a lot of testing out of cars, English accents, and Shelby and Miles thumbing their noses at their corporate overlords. The middle was a bit slow, despite this being a movie about race cars. Still, worth a view.