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Laramie Movie Scope: Ford v Ferrari

A great historic sports rivalry

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 19, 2019 – When I was young, I was a Formula One race car fan. I followed drivers such as Sterling Moss, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart on TV, in magazines and newspapers. Of course, the name of Carol Shelby is well known to me and all racing fans, and some movie fans, too, since Shelby Mustangs and Shelby Cobras have appeared in a number of movies.

This movie features Shelby (played by Matt Damon) along with a driver whose name I did not remember from my youth, Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale of the “Batman” movies). It turns out that Miles was a test driver for Shelby, who was not only a successful race car driver, but also a capable race car designer and engineer. He was a key member of Shelby's design team. This movie depicts the two men as good friends, even though they have violent disagreements and fights from time to time.

After an attempt by Ford to buy the Ferrari company, engineered by famed Ford Motor Company executive Lee Iacocca (played by Jon Bernthall of “Baby Driver”) falls through. Owner Enzo Ferrari (played by Remo Girone) not only rejects the offer, but insults Ford, its products, its owner and company executives. Owner Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts of “Lady Bird”) tells his people to build a race car that will “bury Ferrari” on the race tracks.

Since Ford does not have a race car team, one must be built from scratch, and Shelby, a successful race car designer with a successful racing team, is recruited to head up Ford's new race team. The goal of the team is to win the prestigious 24-hour race at Le Mans, France, won by Ferrari five years in a row. As Shelby and Miles are brought on board, the hot-tempered, abrasive driver Miles rubs Iacocca and another Ford executive, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas of “The Lincoln Lawyer”) the wrong way, leading to a series of conflicts.

While Ford's engineers take a scientific approach to designing Ford's race car, the GT-40, Miles, Shelby and his team favor a more seat of the pants approach, cutting weight, boosting horsepower and decreasing air drag. Together, they whip the car into the shape. Along the way there are constant conflicts between Shelby's team and Ford executives.

A major part of this story is also Ken Miles' wife, Mollie (Caitriona Balfe of “Money Monster”) and his son, Peter (Noah Jupe of “A Quiet Place”). Miles' family has money problems and Mollie and Peter worry about Ken's safety in the dangerous sport of road racing and the dangerous job of test car driving. The family's money problems are portrayed int he film as a major factor in Miles taking the job with the Ford race car team.

The road racing sequences look real because they rely on live action camera work weaving among race cars during racing conditions. The races are exciting, with close finishes, spinouts, crashes and fires. The acting is excellent, with Damon and Bale turning in some of their best-ever performances. Balfe and Jupe also turn in fine performances. There is a lot of drama in this film, which is about a lot more than racing.

A lot of liberties were taken with the historic events depicted in the movie (for instance Miles was known as a courteous, not cantankerous, racer, Enzo Ferrari was not present at Le Mans, and Ford Motor executives interfered with Shelby far less than the film depicts). Also Lee Iacocca was not some petty bureaucrat, but an important figure in American history who was instrumental in rescuing Chrysler Corporation from oblivion. These inaccuracies will no doubt be played up as part of movie awards season politics, but they should not take away from the fact this is one of the year's best movies. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]