This article was originally published by Russell Matthews on 9/11/19 for Reel Dialogue.
FORD V FERRARI
There are stories throughout history that transcend time and have applications that can reach into the human experience regardless of the era or context. Then some films inspire generations because a beautiful combination of compelling storytelling, the right actors hired to portray the characters and a strong vision of the director behind the camera. With all of the options in theatres and streaming across the world it would seem that this should be a simple formula to administer, but each year these golden moments are a rare find. The story of the battle for automotive dominance during the 1966 Le Mans between Ford and Ferrari does not inspire confidence that this will happen, but this film did prove to have everything needed for one of the most inspiring and entertaining films of the year.
Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is best known for his namesake and design of the Mustang that was driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Unbeknownst to those outside of the world of auto racing, this man was one of the only Americans to win LeMans and was one of racing’s most significant stars. After his racing days were over, he became known for his unique car design that gained the attention of automotive aficionados from around the world.
When Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) came to Shelby to ask for him to consider designing and building a Ford that could compete and beat Ferrari at the great endurance road race of LeMans, the racer was intrigued. The one thing he needed to prove to the Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) was that it would take more than a fast car to win at LeMans. To win the prestigious event, they would need to hire the best driver for the job and that this man was the less-than-refined Ken Miles (Christian Bale).
Unlike many films that show how individuals attain their goals in life by merely believing in themselves, director James Mangold (Logan) has brought out a film that shows that the greatest achievements in life are forged through fire. We hear of the legendary tales of greats in industry and disciplines like Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles after they have already achieved their goals in life.
Unfortunately, most people do not get to see the difficulties, opposition, failures and sacrifices that these individuals needed to endure to achieve their dreams. This story manages to show Iacocca stuff up a pitch meeting, Shelby struggle with his business and Ford fail in acquiring Ferrari which humanises this whole experience and allow the audience to connect with these legendary figures. Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Jon Bernthal (one of the most underrated actors of our generation) are made for these roles and epitomise the legendary figures they represent.
This is a theme that should resonant with those striving to live out a Christian lifestyle based in the teachings of the Bible. In James, it states, blessed is the man (person) who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. It proves that hardship and trials are part of life and they do not mean we are meant to give up at the first sign of difficulty. Many times they are there to refine our thinking and stretch us to be better. The differentiation between the biblical model and the example in most modern day movies is that the God of the Bible offers hope despite the outcome that might result.
No one is perfect in this film They may have been great at what they did in their time, but they were as human as anyone else. This aspect will help audiences to see how this story transcends a race in France and shines its light on the human soul and value of our relationships. Mangold manages to make this whole industry engrossing and manages to make the audience feel like they are along for the ride. This long-forgotten tale of auto racing provides something for anyone looking for great entertainment and the desire to be inspired at the cinemas again.