America, I have a couple of prefaces to this review so you can see where my mindset is. I am not a car guy. I am a history guy, so I was familiar with both Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, and of course Lee Iacocca.
I was converted back to being a Damon fan during the Bourne movies. I avoided him for years after “The Talented Mr Ripley”, and I have forgiven him for the two hours he has stolen from me. I enjoy him playing a Texan, because he nails the accent, and you get lost in it.
I love Christian Bale. I think he’s an amazing actor, and an intense human being. I feel he’s taken years off his life yo-yoing his weight, but I hope not.
And lastly, there is no need to see the Snyder cut, because what’s the difference of two hours of him not understanding a character, and four hours of him not understanding a character.
Now I hope this is something you’d really like. Ford vs. Ferrari is the story of when the big race in the world was LeMans. Much more popular in Europe, it still held sway at the time with many Americans. And year after year, a European auto maker won time after time.
At one point, you saw how Ferrari made their auto’s, which also made you understand why they were so expensive, and not a run of the mill automobile.
Ford invented the assembly line, Ferrari was all about quality and high performance. One man built an engine. One man built a transmission. One man built a gear box. And so on and so on. (I’m not a car guy, so body and tires were next, maybe suspension) At one point Ford laughed, and said that they produced more auto’s in a day, then Ferrari had in a lifetime. (which may be true, but I’d rather have a Ferrari, though I can afford a Ford (Fiesta))
Ken Miles was part engineer, part driver, and 100% difficult. So difficult, that he had to build his cars himself, could get no sponsorships because he was difficult, and though respected by other drivers, I never got the feeling that he was genuinely liked by his peers, or his employers.
Carroll Shelby was an engineer, car builder, driver, entrepreneur, and all around Texas badass. The Shelby on the Mustang Shelby…that is him. He was portrayed as a guy who lived on the edge, be it racing (had to quit because of a heart condition), or running his dealership, to designing cars, he was an all in type of guy. He said that if a man enjoyed what he did, he never worked a day in his life. He said he wasn’t that man, he was born to do what he did, and he’d be miserable if he wasn’t able to do it.
Him and Miles had a lot in common.
Jon Berthal played Lee Iacocca. In this movie, he was portrayed as someone who did what was right, didn’t always toe the company line, and though always had the company’s best interest in heart, he was willing to think outside the box, and was a fan of the right pieces in the right places, and we’ll figure out the marketing later.
Josh Lucas played Leo Beebe, and Tracy Letts played Henry Ford II. They ended up being the bad guys in the movie, though Beebe way more than Ford II. The way it’s told, Ford II wasn’t as deep into the loop as the others, and basically just wanted results for the open check he wrote. Beebe was all about the public image, his first, then the company. He had to be the man shown in charge.
Ford II was portrayed as a watered down version of his grandfather. They shared the same name, but his drive wasn’t near that of his grandfather, or even that of his barely mentioned father, Edsel. I felt he came across as a rich kid, who knew the results he should have, but was too far removed from the process to get them.
Iacocca was the real idea man. His idea to challenge Ferrari in the LeMans was a marketing ploy. The guys coming back from the war wanted the solid autos, ones that weren’t flashy, but dependable. The problem was, Chevy was making them better, and more popular. Ford had just come out with the Mustang, and Beebe spearheaded the marketing. This is where him and Miles fell apart, because Miles was quite critical of the car, and said that he would buy a Chevy over it, because it was better anyways.
Iacocca came up with the plan to market to those war veterans kids. They wanted speed, and power. The wanted Mustangs, Chargers, and Chevelles.
Unfortunately for Ford, the Chevelles were the go to car. So the plan was hatched, after a failed bid to take over Ferrari (to Fiat), to beat the Ferrari’s at LeMans. Only problem was, an American car had never won LeMans…ever. Ferrari designed those cars to win it.
This is where Shelby came in, as well as Miles, his friend Roy Lunn. As a team, they were a mix of cutting edge, and old school common sense. You mix that together, you get a car that is leaps and bounds past what was previously used, Lighter, more power, streamlined, and with Miles driving, pushed to the absolute limits. You also had two guys who flirted with the rule books over the years, looked for loopholes, and too every inch given, and came up with new technology that stayed within the rules, but was very close to the line.
So they had 90 days to put a car together, they did, and…spoiler alert…marketing took place over common sense (that son of a bitch Beebe), they replaced Miles as the driver, and the weaknesses Miles knew how to work around doomed the Ford team, and they did not place that year.
As always, I’m not going to tell you a whole lot about the story. You need to know that Miles and Shelby were rebels and the good guys, Beebe was the bad guy, Hank the Deuce was painted as a bad guy but really wasn’t, just a guy who wanted results, and Iacocca was a guy who was years ahead of everyone else, when it came to marketing cars. (Which was proven when the took over Chrystler later, and made people want to drive them again)
The acting in it was superb. Matt Damon had the accent down, as did Christian Bale. He’s from Wales, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch, but Damon is a Masshole, so him nailing a TX accent was impressive, again. He did it in True Grit, though it was a TX accent from a different time, and he nailed that too. Jon Bernthal grew on me as the movie went on, and really, everyone was on point. I really liked the kid (and I hate kids in movies, because most can’t act), who played Miles son. He wasn’t overly childlike, and came across as a natural kid.
Casting, Damon and Bale were amazing. I liked the Caitrona Balfe as the patient, exasperated wife, Josh Lucas as Beebe was easily hateable, Noah Jupe as his son great, Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II (Hank the Deuce), was as well. Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari was great, but I thought that JJ Felid as Roy Lunn was just amazing. He was probably 6 or 7th on the important character list, but he just nailed it.
I want to take a second to talk about the casting of Jon Bernthal. When he first came on the screen, I didn’t think I would buy it, and I hoped that it wouldn’t take away from my enjoyment. He’s generally cast in a more action role, so as an executive, I wasn’t totally sure he had the chops to pull it off. In my head, I was writing that paragraph already. And I pictured old Lee Iacocca, not young Iacocca, and he definitely didn’t fit the bill. He more than proved he had the chops, not just with line delivery, but with facial, movements, and subtle things, so hats off to casting.
The story was amazing. Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller nailed it. Granted, it’s based on a real true story, but they had a little bit of everything, from nail biting action, humor, drama…honestly, the only thing missing was a bit of horror. Most importantly, the movie flowed perfectly (thanks director James Mangold), in between the different aspects, so that you might have known what was coming, but it just flowed seamlessly, so that it happened before you really were prepared for it. The pace was phenomenal, and you never felt you were sitting for 152 minutes.
I thought they caught the 60’s quite well as well. You didn’t see the peace flag waving hippies of the time, but you saw the more conservative part of America, which isn’t always a popular view of Hollywood. I thought that they nailed 60’s suburbia perfectly.
I think that “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” will take a bunch of Oscars, but if this movie stole a few, I would be very happy, and sad, because I worship Tarantino.
This isn’t a car movie. Well, it is, but it’s a story about a lot of things, that are all tied up in a great bundle, that leaves you exhilarated in the end. I will say, unless you know the history, there are a few things at the end that surprise you, but fit into the story well. That, and they really happened, so you can’t really rewrite history, unless you are Tarantino.
As always, you can catch me @jaycanchu on Twitter and Instagram. I’m also on Facebook, replay to all non bot messages, and some bot messages.