Exhilarating ride

  • Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in Ford V Ferrari and both deliver Oscar-worthy performances. (Photo courtesy / The Wall Street Journal)

“Ford V Ferrari” takes place in the mid 1960s and is an exhilarating, tightly wound piece of film making that works on multiple levels, while based on a true story.

Matt Damon (Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting) is Oscar caliber as determined American car designer, Carroll Shelby, a legend who understands high speed racing isn’t always about speed and mechanics, but is often about the driver.

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Christian Bale is remarkable as the confident, unfiltered driver/mechanic Ken Miles, who teams with Shelby in working for the Ford Motor Company in their efforts to build the world fastest, most durable race car to compete against the Italian champions from Ferrari. Their goal? To win the 24 Hours Of Le Mans in France in 1966.

What elevates “Ford V Ferrari” from most other “racing” films is its attention to emotional as well as physical detail. Yes, the racing scenes are elaborate, even dangerous and well-photographed, but what’s going on inside the minds of all the players makes it so much more coherent.

Writer/ Director James Mangold (Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma, Logan) has created his finest film. An Oscar level sports film that is less about sports and more about blue collar workers surrounded by white collar executives who thrive on taking all the credit.

Look for a supporting Oscar nomination for veteran actor Traci Letts (The Post, Lady Bird, August Osage County) as Henry Ford II who cries like a baby when Matt Damon takes him for a high speed spin. He steals every scene playing an intimidating, historical figure.

Other highlights include Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Sicario, Baby Driver, Wind River) as an eager, young, Lee Iacocca, Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) as Ken’s always reasonable wife, and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, A Beautiful Mind) as the self-serving Ford executive Leo Beebe.

“Ford V Ferrari” is as good as any film I saw all last year and lives up to the hype. It runs two and a half hours with every frame just about perfect, reminding me of Philip Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff,” but about cars.

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It’s a smart film of empathy and understanding in a world and business that is often cruel and dangerous.

Gary Cogill is an Emmy award-winning film critic, speaker and film producer. His wife, Hayley Hamilton Cogill, is a sommelier, wine writer, and educator. Together they host “Cogill Wine And Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on reVolverPodcasts.com while living on Hawaii Island in Waimea.

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