Actors are part of a difficult profession, as delivering quality work repeatedly is a near impossible task. The truly great not only entertain onscreen, but fully inhabit a new character each time they appear in a film. Christian Bale is the best at this, demonstrating time and again his ability to engage with a portrayal of something unique from his previous endeavors. His ever-growing resume includes embodying an emaciated drug addicted boxer (The Fighter), an obese con man (American Hustle), and former vice president Dick Cheney (Vice), among countless other transformations. Bale is at the height of his craft and adds to his legacy here, delivering another amazing performance in Ford V Ferrari, a true story that entertains with its top-notch acting, visuals, and screenplay.
The story follows Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a former racecar driver now working as a car designer for Shelby American. In a 1966 Texas setting, Shelby is enlisted by Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) on behalf of Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to design a revolutionary racecar for Ford. With the help of the hotheaded but talented driver, Ken Miles(Christian Bale), they hope to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, a race typically dominated by Ferrari vehicles.
The greatest strength of Ford V Ferrari is the acting, as Matt Damon and Christian Bale are front and center showcasing their talents. Their chemistry is delightful, sharing the spotlight often to create some of the best scenes. Damon and Bale are dual leads in the story, but without a doubt this movie belongs to the latter. Bale transforms once again for the character, dropping weight and adopting a new accent to recreate Ken Miles straight out of the history books. It may not be his finest performance, but it's in the conversation, which in itself is a testament to his greatness as the top thespian working today. While Damon may play second fiddle to Bale here, he still impressively inhabits the persona of Carroll Shelby and delivers one of his best roles to date.
The performances will no doubt be what draw in the viewers, but what escalates the film to a higher level is the cinematography and script. The visuals for the racing scenes are astounding, encapsulating the audience’s attention with adrenaline pumping thrills. One negative is an overly ambitious story line that attempts to cover a lot of ground, which results in some pacing issues during the introductory and closing chapters. The screenplay would have benefitted from some editing to help narrow the film’s focus. Once the main plot is established, the script thrives with an engaging premise and enjoyable dialogue, particularly the humorous back and forth remarks between Damon and Bale, which is a highlight.
Overall, Ford V Ferrari is an intriguing glimpse into a lesser known true story that overcomes some pacing issues and a slightly underwhelming conclusion to entertain with incredible acting and visuals. The middle stretch of the story is where the screenplay kicks things into high gear and creates a ride that fires on all cylinders. I give it 4 out of 5 Stars and recommend it to anyone interested in racecars, the actors involved, or simply a good story.