Quick Review: 3.5 stars Not sure this one was worth seeing in the theater. Don’t get me wrong ti was good and fun. It’s a bit of a turn on the typical underdog sports story. I didn’t love Christian Bale’s accent, but it didn’t detract from the show. And it’s nice to see Matt Damon doing something that isn’t preachy and “woke.” This would make a good “date night in” when it hits streaming services and Red Box.
Longer review: Everyone likes an underdog story. But only when the underdog wins and this isn’t that. Ford motors is a juggernaut, they may have set out to beat Ferrari and succeeded, they aren’t the heroes here.
Racer Ken Miles, who took the risks and did the work is the true underdog here. He doesn’t make for good PR. He isn’t a “people person.” But he’s skilled and rather than arrogant he’s surprisingly self aware.
We love him because he is ready to give up his dreams to support his family. We love him because he races for the beauty of it, the skill and artistry it takes to handle a machine doing over 200 miles an hour through a challenging course. He is the embodiment of the American individual, especially because he is an Irish immigrant from war torn Europe.
Spoiler: In the end Ford wins, but their attention to appearances over performance costs Ken what should have been his win. The real arc of the story isn’t Ford’s rise to victory, it’s Ken’s mellowing. His decision to give Ford their photo-op costs him his win, but it doesn’t cost him his sense of self. He’s able to accept it with grace and move on.
The bittersweet is prevalent both in the beginning and the end. And maybe that’s why I walked away a little underwhelmed. The trailer bills it as a typical sports triumph, but Carroll Shelby, Damon’s character, gets into car building because he’s forced to retire from racing due to a heart condition. His voice over in the early moments of the movie, after waxing poetic about racing for a bit, concludes that when you are in the state of flow brought on by the perfect meld of man and machine, you are left to answer one question: who are you? It’s a question we all have to answer and the truth is it’s complicated.
The movie doesn’t shy away from asking that question of its characters either, displaying the prejudices carried by Ford, Shelby, Miles, and others in, at times, surprisingly graphic ways. It’s an important part of telling the whole truth about any group of people or event that we not shy away from or sweep under the rug the negative aspects of people’s character and mindset.
In the end, I say save your pocket money to go see Knives Out (review forth coming), Harriet, or Midway. Watch this one on a weekend when you’re tired of binging sitcoms.
Until next time, enjoy the show.