Ford v Ferrari, an old school drama in which men do important things for men and somehow change the world with their masculine things, is your father's favorite movie of the year. It is a dramatic film in which soft-bobbing is done right in the middle, well done and full of good actors. I can't really say it's a bad movie, because it's too good for that, but it's a lot of what you expect. You think Ford v Ferrari will be a Men doing Men Things movie, and it's a Men doing Men Things movie. He has no opinions about those men or their men's things except that these men do their things on men very well. There is no particular intuition other than that sometimes when men get together to do men's things, great things can happen. Ford v Ferrari does not have the vision or empathy of First man, It only assumes that these men do their particular men's things because they are the men who do those men's things. At least everyone's mother is not called "Martha".
Racing fans can have fun Ford v Ferrari for its faithful recreation of the middle of the century racing, complete with decently engaging race scenes. Director James Mangold knows how to put together a satisfying story, and Ford hits all the beats: the promising upstart joins a rag suit to take down the big bully on the block, and he's a supportive wife and a child salty for the stakes, plus a bad guy in the stuffed shirt because how could the public understand a movie unless there's a country-club-like grin that tells the rag suit that they don't know how to play? (How has Josh Lucas, who should be Paul Newman's natural heir, turned into this Hollywood guy? Someone saved him with a horror movie or something.)
In this case, the promising promising is Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a very gifted and difficult English racer and mechanic. It is a good thing that his supportive wife (Catriona Balfe) and his salty child (Noah Jupe) are ready for the journey, or surely the public would hate this British with a hilarious mouth who chooses to fight with everyone. I know that when I go to the movies about motor racing what I really want to see is a guy who promises his wife that this time he will definitely leave his dangerous sport. What a revolutionary moment, never seen anything like it in a sports movie before now. Ken is drawn back to driving the Ford Motor Company by Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon with a decent Texas twang), himself a retired pilot who now builds racing cars, and is hired to develop a Ford pilot for Lee Iacocca ( John Bernthal, in what I can only assume is a part largely left on the cutting room floor).
The film revolves around Shelby's offer to beat the dominant Ferrari team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a brutal endurance race. Ford starts to run because Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) embarrasses Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) in a failed merger offer. Strangely, the film eludes the fact that Shelby also had a grudge against Enzo Ferrari, after Ferrari abruptly refused Shelby for a leading position in the team. This is the kind of detail that could, I don't know, make a movie more intimate than "beating these guys for the benefit of a Giant Corporation". As it is, the Shelby mechanics team works on a new car for no apparent reason. We know the motivation of Henry Ford II, but in reality we never know Shelby or Miles, besides money, which is strangely unromantic for a film that makes men who do things for men romantic. You'd think they'd like to get into Shelby's grudge and Miles' lust for the Le Mans trophy. But no, as for the movie, I'm there just for money.
Actually, I had a lot of fun Ford v Ferrari, despite all its clichés. It's too long and nobody really cares that Henry Ford II gets hurt, but the scenes of the team that develops and tests the car – the GT40 – are pretty fantastic. Marco Beltrami offers a soundtrack from the Sixties that is fun, and the competition scenes share the DNA with the greatest cinematic sporting event of all time, the race in The black stallion. Like that scene, the Ford scenes are about the beauty of movement and the machine. Ron Howard race to shoot some terrifying f-cking race scenes, but Ford he's not trying to make the races look scary, even if he is; is more invested in highlighting the beauty of the race. And this happens, watching these machines pushed to the limits of the engineering battle for position and performing bold passages is exciting. I wish it was available in a more interesting and creative package, but Ford v Ferrari it is perfectly useful. And your father will love it.