By Andrew Harwood
When it comes to film, something that can be universally agreed upon is the impression a well-made picture leaves behind. Maybe it’s the combination of impeccable acting, clever cinematography, a great script and even greater editing that further pulls you into the feature, but a well-made film stands as the ultimate achievement for a filmmaker.
That’s why for this week on Cinephilia, we’ll be focusing on one of the most well-made films of last year, James Mangold’s “Ford v. Ferrari.”
Released in 2019, “Ford v. Ferrari” tells the story of automobile designer and racer Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and his relationship with British driver Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale, as the two are employed by Ford Motors to race against and beat Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A film like “Ford v. Ferrari” is unique in its own way, in the sense that it places such emphasis on its surface that it doesn’t contribute much depth. By “surface,” I’m referring to what we as the viewer see: the cinematography, editing, acting and setting. Also in play with the film’s surface is what we hear: the music, sound effects and mixing.
The conjunction of such compositional elements makes up the basis of the film, and when used with care and purpose, there is nothing quite like it.
The most astonishing element of this film is its cinematography and editing, as well as truly remarkable performances from Bale and Damon. Scenes are both meticulously crafted and well-shot, in the sense of how they encompass not only image, but emotion.
The shot of Bale and his kid son on the LAX tarmac is beautiful, but also incredibly poetic as the two discuss the will of opportunity. The most impressive imagery comes from the race sequences, which by themselves deserve recognition for the way they manage to immerse the audience.
Camera movement transposes the viewer into the drive, through every turn and knot. The editing of the film works to create a fast-paced depiction of the world of racing, where everything moves quickly but can go wrong even quicker. This ability again helps bring the viewer into the movie — something many films nowadays fail to do.
“Ford v. Ferrari” succeeds at drawing a viewer in despite having little to no substance behind it, and creates a different viewing experience for the audience.
A film like “Ford v. Ferrari” is made for two purposes: to inform and to entertain. It informs the audience of the story of Ford’s rivalry against Ferrari and the men behind it, while entertaining the audience through a punchy script, great shots and brilliant acting.
The conjunction of these two essentials proves a film can indeed be considered well-made, even if its best qualities are surface level.
Immersion into a film is probably one of the greatest experiences one could have. That’s why, at the closing minutes, why does a film about automobile racing and the business of racing elicit tears? That is where we zone in on the surface of a film: what we see and how we react to it.
That’s why despite its lack of depth, the sports drama “Ford v. Ferrari” deserves every bit of praise and attention.