The clash of the titans in Ford v Ferrari started in a boardroom but ended in a car race. In 1963, Ford, facing a sales slump, tried to juice their image by buying Ferrari. But Enzo Ferrari killed the deal at the last minute since this would have given Ford control over his prized racing division. Henry Ford II, upset at being snubbed, decides to try to beat Ferrari at his own game and build a racing team and car that can win against continual champions Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
Yes, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) are characters in Ford v. Ferrari, along with another famous car executive who used to work at Ford, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal). But the heart of the movie is the friendship between Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the real brains behind the Ford GT40 program, and his right-hand man, the cantankerous British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Miles is arguably the best driver in the world, and a gifted mechanic, but his temper and lack of personal skills make him his own worst enemy. As a result he gets into constant fights with his buddy Shelby, with his wife, Mollie (Caitriona Balfe), and with the head of Ford’s racing program, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas).
“…the clash between the Ford corporate culture…vs. the rugged individualism of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby.”
Even if you’re not a muscle car fan (I drive a Prius), there’s plenty to like in Ford v Ferrari, since the script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow), and Jason Keller (Mirror Mirror) focuses tightly on the interpersonal conflicts between the characters, and the clash between the Ford corporate culture of management by committee vs. the rugged individualism of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby. Matt Damon particularly shines as the affable countrified Shelby, and Christian Bale delivers his trademark intensity as Ken Miles. Miles is the driving force here, since he’s at the center of the conflict, and the one most often behind the wheel. This friendship between Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, wonderfully executed by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, will go down as one of the all-time great pairings in cinema history. Bale lost 70 pounds of his Dick Cheney weight in 7 months to play the wiry Miles, and his physicality is unmistakable.