RUSH minus 30% racing, plus 30% corporate scheming = FORD VS FERRARI (aka LE MANS’66)

As a massive fan of Mad Men, I honestly thought the corporate politics in and outside Ford were as interesting as the racing. Bale and Damon are getting all the plaudits but Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), Lee Iacocca (John Bernthal), Leo Beebe  Josh Lucas) and their interaction with an almost magical Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) is definately the highlight for me.

Not that the racing sequences are bad, they are certainly influenced by the visceral trackhugging of RUSH, but the boardroom plotting is so sharp and so ruthless it would verge on ROLLERBALL if John Mangold’s direction weren’t so upbeat.

There is enough technical detail, along with surprisingly engaging domestic detail, with Caitriona Balfe making an unmemorable role as Period Movie Wife Character actually memorable. Her scouse(?) accent is almost as impressive as Bale’s brummie, which is is so good it could certainly get him a place in any Black Sabbath biopic (the Sabbs being the scientific standard of Birmingham dialog)

In terms of accuracy, much like RUSH, the essentials are true even if some of the details are fanciful. For a different perspective on the ending you may wish to reference McLaren which fills in the detail for the co-driver who gets a shockingly short amount of screen time. The movie almost willfully avoids McLaren as if his story would overshadow that of the narrative’s main characters.

In IMDB McLaren and Chris Amon both appear as cast members, (Ben Rigby Bruce McLaren and Brent Pontin as Chris Amon) but barely appear in the movie, perhaps suggesting there are more scenes to come in a future extended version. At 2 and a half hours, barely noticed by some of the non-motor enthusiasts I saw the movie with, the theater release of FvF is probably long enough as is.

The barely noticed British kid played by Jack McMullen is future west coast motoring personality Charlie Agapiou and he has a very believable take on the twist ending to the race (SPOILERS!)

I’ve not seen Steve McQueen’s LE MANS (1971) for decades, a review of that along with GRAND PRIX, will be posted here shortly. Is the Porsche in FvF actually a nod to Le Mans (1971)? Apparently Ferrari banned it’s own cars from appearing in McQueen’s movie because it concentrated too much on the German cars.

FvF has been surprisngly successful at the box office (certainly for a movie I review on a blog, which is usually the kiss of death), and while FvF is a movie so conventional in tone that Collider Movies compared it to Disney live action family movies, if it is successful it’s because it’s hit the zeitgeist of public mood much like EASY RIDER.

RUSH is a revolutionary sports movie in its own way, in that it follow’s Lauda’s conclusion that racing and winning is less important than ‘Choose Life’ but RUSH doesn’t have a political bone in it’s body. FORD v FERRARI nominally has the devious Italian’s as the bad guys, exemplified by a magnificent turn by Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari, but the real villain is corporate power and ego crushing the individual, and in that Bale’s Ken Miles does seem like the Dennis Hopper character of the moment.

FvF (LE MANS 66 for some daft reason in the UK) has made a bucketload of money – a sequel would be garish, particularly because of the lack of focus on Bruce McLaren, but how about a prequel? We see some of this as a flashback but how about
showing Damon as Shelby winning Le Mans as a driver?
For the non-motorhead movie buffs who would enjoy this pic there is this meta corporate intrigue to enjoy as well;
as said by IndieWire
“Perhaps its most crucial achievement is scoring a victory for the 20th Century Fox side of the Disney colossus after multiple disappointments — perhaps giving strength to the argument that there’s room for films that fall well outside the parent company’s preferences for franchises, sequels, and brands.”

And a final Hollywood vs racing connection trivia courtesy of Ken Miles’s Wiki page
“(Ken) Miles raced … at Palm Springs in late March, finishing first overall against veteran driver Cy Yedor, … and novice driver, actor James Dean in a Porsche 356 Speedster. Miles was later disqualified on a technical infraction because his fenders were too wide, thus allowing Yedor and Dean to get ‘bumped up’ to first and second.”

Ken Miles, Bruce McLaren and James Dean. 🙁
Let’s all be careful out there today