FORD VS FERRARI – Review by Susan Granger

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According to Ernest Hemingway, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering; the rest are merely games. These are the only sports where lives are put on the line.”

So this saga begins as Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is on the last leg of the 1959 Le Mans when, suddenly, both his car and he catch fire. After a quick fix, he’s back on the track, becoming the first American to win Le Mans. But that will be Carroll Shelby’s last race.

Sidelined by his cardiologist, Shelby turned to designing cars. Which put him on the radar of Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) who realized that, as the Baby Boomer generation came of age, their purchasing habits were changing. They wanted cars that were sportier, sexier and faster.

So Ford tried to buy Enzo Ferrari’s fabled Italian racecar company. But, at the last minute, Ferrari sold to Fiat, not only refusing Ford’s monetary offer but also insulting Ford himself.

Infuriated, Ford decided to build a sports car that would win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the oldest auto endurance race. Carroll Shelby was the man to do it and British engineering specialist Ken Miles (Christian Bale) was the man to drive it – with unctuous Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) as Ford’s toady.

Those are the facts. Screenwriters John-Henry Butterworth, Jez Butterworth and Jason Keller, working with director James Mangold, embellish them, creating a three-act structure that illuminates the heartfelt Shelby/Miles friendship, Miles’ devotion to his wife (Caitriona Balfe) and son (Noah Jupe), along with spectacular action set-pieces.

As the drivers rev their engines, it’s almost like a Western gun-fight with kudos to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and stunt coordinator Robert Nagle.

Eventually, Ford’s GT40 emerged as one of the world’s most valuable automobiles. The 2020 GT40 has a $500,000 sticker price, while the track-only Ford GT Mk. II sells for $1.2 million.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ford vs Ferrari” is an exciting 8 – hitting on all cylinders.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.