Carroll Shelby finds tribute in ‘Ford v Ferrari’


20th Century Fox

Matt Damon (left) and Christian Bale (right) pay tribute in “Ford v Ferrari.”

Lance Nelson, Staff Writer

Whether you see yourself as the next automotive visionary or you couldn’t change a tire if your life depended on it, director James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” is sure to win you over. Contrary to what the title may suggest, this mostly true story is about the tumultuous friendship of two legendary American men. An inspiring tale of how two underdogs rose to victory in the face of uncertainty and relentless naysayers.  

Based on the extraordinary 1960s rivalry between the Ford Motor Company and Enzo Ferrari, the movie focuses on the rousing tale of American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and spitfire driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) accomplishing the unthinkable and captivating generations to come. As the story goes, what stemmed from Ford’s embarrassing failure to acquire the money-strapped Italian brand in 1963 led to something much more valuable: respect on the track. An intangible currency that wouldn’t have been possible without these two men.

Long before the letters S-H-E-L-B-Y found their home on some of the world’s most powerful muscle cars, Carroll was just a man who loved to race. His commitment to challenging himself and those around him forever changed the automotive industry. Showcased in this film, Shelby’s undying belief in the often-destructive Miles did not sit well with Ford’s marketing team. Shelby himself was no stranger to pushing the limits and the powers that doubted him eventually benefited heavily from it. Although just a snippet of his amazing life, “Ford v Ferrari” pays a well-earned tribute to what he contributed to the struggling American automaker. 

If casting two of Hollywood’s leading actors wasn’t enough to ensure these men be properly represented, the polished storytelling and thoughtful pacing does the trick. Spend too much time focused on one aspect of the narrative and you’re bound to lose an audience. By jumping scenes between racing, a teetering home life, and a controlling bandwagon of Ford executives, the writers were able to create a nice balance. 

Although the outline of the film follows the ambitious feat of building a modest Ford that can defeat the immortal Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the true power comes from the relationship between Shelby and Miles. How this dynamic duo carried Ford to an unbelievable win and lifted them to new heights is where the film truly shines. 

Relinquishing their prior tough guy roles of Jason Bourne and Batman, Damon and Bale move beyond the emotional restrictions of past films and provide something much more real. Undoubtedly strong, iconic men, Shelby and Miles were more than just two gearheads that worked together. Wanting to showcase this, the filmmaker doesn’t shy away from the bond they shared off the track. The vulnerability between them is just as impactful, if not more so, than the nail-biting defeat of Ferrari (spoiler— it’s well known). 

In the end, “Ford v Ferrari” is another reminder of what strong storytelling can achieve. What Mangold has presented is heartfelt and deserves every positive review it collects. And as viewers fill theaters, the lives of Shelby and Miles will continue to flow through the veins of all those who seek competition and connection. That is because no race is ever won alone.

“Ford v Ferrari” is now in theaters.