Ford v Ferrari review – Christian Bale Commands Mangold’s Winner | London Film Festival 2019

Last year’s Oscar nominee Christian Bale returns with a perfectly charming and captivating performance that makes James Mangold’s latest film work so well. With little interest in motor racing, Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans ‘66 in the UK) works remarkably well and is a terrific time for fans or non-fans of racing.

Mangold isn’t a racing fan and that is extremely beneficial in the reasons to why this film works. It’s a film that focuses on character over thrills, you care for Bale and Damon’s characters, you are forced to actively engage in their human nature and happenings. Therefore, there is stakes and these stakes pay off with the extreme anticipation and need for success in their trip to Le Mans ‘66.

The film follows Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and brash English race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle to compete against Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Starting off at low-level races Miles is seen and soon after recruited by Ford to compete in their first en-devour in the motor racing business, with the aim to build a vehicle to oppose and beat their competition.

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The film meanders in terms of racing, for when the last two main races arrive, they are incredibly intense and riveting. But what works so well is it’s focus on its people, it’s care for the human condition. Bale is on top-form, delivering a performance full of gravitas and sharp-wit. Damon is a nice addition to Bale’s presence, he draws little attention but does a great job in assisting Bale – it’s really his film.

James Mangold captures some striking visuals and memorable moments, although it’s not his best directed film, he surely does a fine job. In terms of visuals, the racing scenes are extremely memorable due to the visceral low-angle shots interspersing between in-car reaction shots, it creates an atmosphere of suspense and need for success in our routing for Ken Miles.

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Although the film is nothing revolutionary, it doesn’t need to be as it succeeds in being a captivating film with character depth and an ongoing tension in the ever-better race scenes. Ford v Ferrari is an open invitation to dip into the world of the people behind the races. Christian Bale is phenomenal, leading the film to glorious heights, whilst Matt Damon also brings his usual Damon-like aroma in backing up Bale’s terrific leading role. Mangold has another winner, even if it’s not a soaring masterpiece, it’s a damn fine film.

4/5 Stars ★★★★☆

Ben Rolph

LE MANS ’66 (FORD V FERRARI) premiered at TELLURIDE 2019 and played at the BFI London Film Festival 2019

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