The 2019 screening of Ford v Ferrari at Toronto’s International Film Festival was a thrilling ride. I waited with hundreds of other lucky ticket-holders inside Roy Thompson Hall, ready for the sounds of roaring engines whipping around corners and whooshing across the oversized screen.
The film did not disappoint. To my husband’s embarrassment, I shamelessly rocked from side to side to the deafening noises and vibrations that put me inside the sweeping tale of two legendary car companies. Every time he nudged my arm, I was gripping the armrest or grabbing his knee with nervous energy. Yet, when I looked around the theater, the audience seemed equally invested in the action. It was okay not to be a fan of fast cars and powerful dual overhead camshafts. Not only was the sensory experience and exceptional camera work on steroids, the narrative plot was just as entertaining.
What matters in the film is whether or not the team of British and American car designers and engineers working for the Ford Motor Company will win the prestigious 1966 Le Mans racing event in France and beat team Ferrari. But on a deeper level, we also wonder how the tempestuous friendship between British mechanic and driver Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) will play out with American former racecar driver and designer Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon). At the center of this epic race, besides the acting phenoms of Bale and Damon, is the true story of how Ford’s new GT40 car challenged the Ferrari racing team in 1966.
For those unfamiliar with the Le Mans race – aka the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France, it’s a 24 hour endurance event that dates back to 1923. It’s considered the world’s greatest sports racing event and “a brutal test of endurance where competitors race stunningly fast cars for 24 straight hours at speeds that can exceed 200 mph on the fastest section of the incredibly long 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe road course.”
However, what makes this film truly entertaining and worth watching is director James Mangold and screenwriters Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller’s real drama: the car-battling dynasties and the human drama in the race to the finish line. Family reputations and country-strong titles are at stake, but underneath we see cautionary truths about our human nature presented in a disarming way.