‘Ford v Ferrari’ Is Pure, Unadulterated Swagger

There’s something inherently appealing when a movie features a character who just Knows How To Get Things Done. You know, that character who, no matter what the crises may be presented at the time, well, never fear, here’s what we’re going to do. Perhaps I’m drawn to this because I am probably the opposite type of person. I rarely know how to Get Things Done. If I’m presented with a crisis, I usually just fret. So that’s why I admire the people who can effortlessly make decisions — as I much prefer to, instead, sulk in the background and second guess whatever decision was made until it’s resolved one way or another. And, in the real world, these people seem to be less and less realistic. But, when one of these Get Things Done characters emerges on screen, I’m instantly fixated.

In Ford v Ferrari, the aforementioned Get Things Done character is legendary engineer Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon. Now, Christian Bale, who plays ornery driver Ken Miles, has the flashier role. There’s no doubt about that. And Bale is, as always, fantastic. But here I think it’s Damon who has the tougher job. Damon has to do that thing where, when Shelby is on screen, he just oozes swagger. A viewer has to take one look at Carroll Shelby, before any dialogue, and know, well, things are about to be in good hands. And that’s what Damon brings here. Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby is pure swagger.

Ford v Ferrari is based on the true story of the Ford Motor Company, feeling some economic downfall, deciding that it would build a race car that could win 24 Hours at Le Mans — an event traditionally dominated by Ferrari — in an effort to make their cars seem cool. Actually, most of the plot of this movie is built off spite, which is kind of refreshing. We don’t get enough spite plots. The spite enters in here because Ford thought they had a deal to purchase Ferrari, but it falls through at the last minute, so, if you can’t join them, then you have to beat them. The problem is building a race car that can win Le Mans is damn near impossible, so they turn to the one person who can Get Things Done.

If you were ever a teenager who liked to drive fast, then you know who Carroll Shelby is. And, yes, I went through a phase of my life where driving fast was a bit of a vice. (Look, I lived in Kansas City, there’s wasn’t much else to do. I think I accumulated around 15 speeding tickets between the ages of 16 and 19.) But, yes, I would buy car magazines for tips on how to make my car go just a little bit faster and always featured in those magazines was some sort of new hot rod or advice from one Carroll Shelby. (Also, my 19-year-old self wouldn’t believe that future me hasn’t even owned a car since moving to New York City 15 years ago.)

Of course, if you’ve ever worked for a corporation, you know there’s no such thing as a job with no interference from the higher-ups. And even though Shelby is told he’s been given carte blanche, he still has to jump through dozens of bureaucratic hoops to get things done. The biggest being his driver, Ken Miles. You see, Miles is a bit of a hothead who doesn’t exactly represent the poster boy image that Ford wants. But Shelby knows he’s the only driver who can actually win Le Mans. Ford v Ferrari is almost as much about having to navigate having multiple bosses at a large corporation as it is winning a car race.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sound in this movie. It’s absolutely phenomenal. And, look, I’m not one who really pays attention to the sound unless there’s something really special going on here, but when these motors start revving, you can feel those soothing hums resonate through your whole body. Every shifting gear is captured with force and attitude. Ford v Ferrari is an incredible audio experience.

Ford v Ferrari is one of my favorite films of the year and is one of those movies that, whenever it’s on cable, I’ll watch from any point the movie might be at. (Honestly, for me, there might not be a bigger compliment.) Again, it’s comforting in these times to just watch a character who knows what to do and how to do it. And, again, this all might be fiction. These people might not even exist. But it’s still fun to pretend. And Ford v Ferrari Knows How To Get Things Done.

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