The elements are in place for a serious Oscar run: Matt Damon. Christian Bale. Oscar-nominated director James Mangold (WALK THE LINE). But you never know if the ingredients of an Oscar-contender will gel until you finally see the movie play out on the big screen.
Mangold’s latest, FORD V FERRARI, started to make the film festival rounds at Telluride, then raced around the corner to the Toronto International Film Festival, where AMC was able to catch up with this highly anticipated drama.
The story centers around the Ford Motor Company’s ambitions to reinvent themselves on the global stage of auto racing. The company was struggling to makes sales in the late 1960s, and they needed innovative ideas to boost marketing and attention.
Enter Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), a dreamer at Ford who cooks up the scheme to compete against Ferrari at the vaunted 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. The Italian motorcar designer had dominated that circuit for years. To contend with (and possibly defeat) Ferrari would be an instant brand boost for Ford.
And only two men could pull that victory off.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale make huge Oscar plays for FORD V FERRARI as the two grease monkeys who commit to Henry Ford II’s vision to rescue the company by triumphing over Enzo Ferrari. Damon plays American automotive designer and driver Carroll Shelby, the most recent U.S. driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford needed his experience, and Shelby needed the challenge.
The ace up his sleeve is driver/mechanic Ken Miles, a brilliant car junkie and competitor. But Miles is not a company guy and rarely plays well on a team. His fiery personality makes it nearly impossible for Ford to back him, even though Shelby knows that Ford has virtually no chance of winning Le Mans if Miles isn’t behind the wheel of the new car they are creating.
It’s so very early in the Oscar race, which is a long marathon instead of a breathless sprint. But we can easily see how both actors — even though they are leads — could contend in acting categories. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see James Mangold in the Best Director category. His approach to the racing scenes are phenomenal, placing the audience inside the race cars that are getting faster, lighter, faster, sleeker and faster. Basically, faster.
But Mangold also deserves credit for fashioning a competition drama into a traditional, inspirational crowd-pleaser, one that could have audiences on their feet when the movie opens in theatres on November 15. The movie has us cheering for Shelby and Miles to triumph over Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But the movie also has us rooting for an American company to succeed, as a team of pioneers come together to set records and shock the world.
Best Picture material? Right now, the odds are looking in FORD V FERRARI’s favor.