Movie review: Ford v Ferrari
This true story is not well known outside the realm of petrolheads and going in cold will mean you get more out of it.
As titles go, it does what it says on the tin. This is the story of an act of revenge by an American giant against an Italian classic. Industry versus art.
Add to that heart-accelerating race scenes, all from a time when the attitude to safety appeared to be a dismissive "meh".
It is also a sly dig at the hazards of creative process, of great ideas and passion interfered with by committee and ego.
Matt Damon is Carroll Shelby, tasked by the bullish Henry Ford II to create a beast to shame the flame red prancing stallion of Enzo Ferrari.
Damon does Damon, but this is no bad thing. He does affable so well and is the diplomat of the team.
He is also the sugar to the spice of Christian Bale's Ken Miles, a prickly British driver who is intensely passionate about his craft and vision to the point of exploding.
This latter trait could keep Bale from receiving awards as it is arguably not too far from Bale himself. (Remember the Terminator Salvation outburst?).
At times you fear for Miles' self-destructive bluntness, but it can also lead to humour such as the realistically inept fight between Shelby and Miles.
Bale's performance is utterly authentic, using many Brit expressions you would not expect in a Hollywood epic. Fizzy pop, anyone? Cheese cob?
It is also fascinating how Bale lost so much weight from his bloated Dick Cheney physique in last year's Vice. He could make a killing with a diet plan.
In some areas, this film is called Le Mans '66 – the gruelling 24-hour race Ford wants to beat Ferrari in. Another title could be Shelby And Miles v Ford v Ferrari.
The Ford company does not come out of this well, often pettily standing in the way of progress and vision.
Lead villain of unrelenting pettiness is Josh Lucas' incredibly oily Leo Beebe, Ford junior's right hand, snake in the grass and a man willing to throw success away because he cannot be seen to have directed it.
Lucas is so perfectly loathsome that if you see him in another role, you'd still feel anger over his actions in this film.
The true heart is Miles, his tolerant wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and adoring son Peter (Noah Jupe). You yearn for success all the way, as much for them as Miles and Shelby's dream machine.
Director James Mangold paces it perfectly, making 2½ hours fly by. The utterly thrilling racing scenes, featuring cars far more beautiful than modern jalopies, give you the romance and the danger of a classic era of racing.
While it does not quite hit top gear, it is still a rare treat in modern cinema.
And don't Wiki or Google it before watching. Just strap in for the ride and enjoy.
FILM: Ford v Ferrari
STARRING: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
THE SKINNY: Car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Bale) face their own demons and executive meddling to build Ford a new race car to beat Ferrari in the legendary Le Mans race of 1966.