Have you ever heard of Carroll Shelby or Lee Iaccoca? Do you know Ford tried to buy Ferrari? Are you aware of the 24 Hours of Lemans? If you have heard of any of these, go see this movie. If you have not heard of any of those, go see this movie. The origin story of the Ford GT40 is one of the greatest ‘FU’ stories in automotive history. Carroll Shelby, Lee Iaccoca, Henry Ford II, Enzo Ferrari, and Ken Miles are larger than life figures. Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Remo Girone, and Christian Bale do a magnificent job of bringing these figures to the screen.
For those that do not know, Ford had a small motor racing footprint outside of NASCAR in the 1960s. Ferrari was nearly bankrupt and had tentatively agreed to allow Ford to purchase them. In a last-minute behind the scenes deal, Enzo sold his company to Fiat. In response Ford built the GT40 to beat Ferrari in the 24 Hour of Lemans; the hardest road race in the world. Carroll Shelby was the only American winner at the time of the 24 hours of Lemans and he was brought in to oversee the development of the GT40. No GT40 finished the first year they entered Lemans, but from 1966 through 1969 they won the race. It is an amazing American engineering feat!
This movie touches on plenty of the history, but it really brings the larger than life, hot-tempered, win at all costs, personalities of Ford, Shelby, and Miles to the big screen. Everyone in this movie has a type-A personality and is very abrasive. The acting is wonderful without feeling overacted. These grown men show their emotions in true 1960s style; with their fists and angry words.
The cars are the second level cast. The GT40 was a temperamental beast, but it is also gorgeous. Enzo Ferrari’s 330 P3 is a masterpiece of midcentury modern Italian design. It is often considered one of the most beautiful race cars ever to take to the track. The interior shots of both vehicles show the sharp contrast between a fine-tuned machine and the Ford prototype. You can even tell the Ferrari has a V12 with a high pitched wine while the GT40 has a growling V8. The claustrophobic nature of a race car is best displayed when Shelby and Ford are crammed in together.
I am a car fan, but this movie goes beyond cars. There is a constant struggle between the executives at Ford and the small engineering outfit headed by Shelby and developed under Miles’ critiques. The movie should be able to keep a general audience entertained for at least the first two hours. At some point during the race, the run-time starts to feel excessive. 2:32 is a long movie especially when the last third is somewhat repetitive. I think there are easily 15 to twenty minutes that could have been taken out without destroying the movie. This is the major downfall in my eyes. Otherwise this movie is great, not groundbreaking but great. This story has long deserved a movie treatment and James Mangold did a great job from the director's seat. A full surround system is ideal for this movie as sound is a key element to immerse yourself.