by Tod Mesirow

If you love cars, and speed, and racing – then you have to not only see “Ford v Ferrari” on a big screen, you have to put it on your list of films to buy.

Because it’s the closest cinematic representation of what it is probably like to drive like a maniac, and win.

I say probably because really, I’ve never done anything like what they do in this film.

And how difficult it is to succeed on all levels – the story, the acting, the drama, the recreating of a storied era in automotive history – and putting the audience in the driver’s seat as they hurtle around a course at breakneck speeds.

Bravo to director James Mangold and his team, who have been with him for many movies.

I was fortunate enough to see a screening at the Director’s Guild of America’s refurbished theater and hallelujah for that.

The sound system has a speaker for every other row, and speakers lining the front of the theater and the back.

And they were all put to great use.

After the screening, there was a Q&A with not just Mangold, but editors, casting people, composers, production designer, sound person, and others.  I’m sure I have some titles wrong.

Tracy Letts and Josh Lucas in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.
Tracy Letts and Josh Lucas in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

But it was clear that they were all committed to making a film that came as close as humanly and technologically possible to capturing the feeling of driving, of racing, of being part of what has become a legendary time.  When Ford tried to buy Ferrari, was spurned, and then took on Ferrari on their home turf – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the proving ground for automotive excellence.

Probably anyone reading this knows the story – Ford’s Lee Iacocca tapped Carroll Shelby to create the car that would beat Enzo Ferrari.  Shelby wanted the mercurial genius driver/mechanic Ken Miles to drive for him.

It’s a classic story of creative v corporate culture – and Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby, Christian Bale as Ken Miles, and Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II kill it with their performances.  Jon Bernthal portrays Lee Iacocca with a confident touch.

ford-v-ferrari-DF-01366_R_CC_CROP_rgb
Matt Damon and Christian Bale on the set of Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

The production built more than 30 cars for the film.  They also used multi-million dollar cars in various scenes as part of the set.  The attention to detail was significant.  They recorded a period-correct Ferrari and GT 40 on a track – with microphones all over the cars, and all over the track.

Sound is the third dimension of visual media, and this film proves it.

There were four locations for the race itself. Recreating Le Mans in the 60s was no easy task, obviously, but it was impossible to tell it wasn’t one track with a race filmed on one day.

The editors started three months before filming happened to build pre-visualization of the race itself.

For one scene at a Ford factory, the production bought 21 Ford Falcons and restored them.  They built F1s from scratch.

Yes, it’s a film.  Yes there were parts left out, or truncated.

But as a piece of cinematic excellence, automotive genre – it’s spectacular.

Not since McQueen’s film “Le Mans” in 1971 has anything come close.

See it on a big screen.  Then you can buy it later and watch it again and again.

Which is what I plan to do.

Tracy Letts in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.
Tracy Letts in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

Photos: 20th Century Fox

“Ford v Ferrari” opens nationwide on Friday, November 15, 2019.