By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Director James Mangold, the filmmaker behind Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma (2007), and Logan, takes on one of the greater moments in sports and car manufacturing history and makes a triumphant cinematic entry. To help matters, Mangold and his casting director have cast talents Matt Damon and Christian Bale in the lead roles. The result is a thoroughly exciting, andrenaline-fueled character study of winning personalities faced with formidable challenges. On the surface, this movie might seem like a typical underdog story, but the writing, direction, and history dictate otherwise.

Damon stars as former race car driver and automobile manufacturer Caroll Shelby. During the 1960s, the Ford Motor Company struggles to remain viable and relevant at a time when other domestic and foreign competition threaten to shut down their operations. Not only has Ford failed to remain a leading seller of automobiles in the American market, they have failed miserably on the auto racing circuit. Enter Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), a vice-president of Ford barely hanging on to his job.

Iacocca and his team pursue a new avenue by seeking the help of Shelby to revitalize their racing team. As Shelby and his crew develop plans for new race cars, the former racer has only one driver in mind–Ken Myles (Christian Bale). Though the often volatile Myles doesn’t usually play well with others, Shelby manages to convince the enigmatic driver to join his team. As the two proceed with their plans, they both encounter opposition from chief rival Ferrari and from within their own company.

Written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller and directed by Mangold, Ford v. Ferrari is certainly the underdog movie of the year. That is not to say that this movie has no chance for accolades or critical acclaim. I mean that this movie has an underdog story executed so well, it deserves praises for that alone. Overall, the film mostly succeeds, but falters a tad by not sticking its landing.

The film ends on a highly questionable note that takes a little away from the rest of the movie. Otherwise, Mangold, the writers, cast and crew have made a truly remarkable piece of cinema that deserves to be experienced on the big screen. From thhe cinematography by Phedon Papamichael to the editing by Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, the movie builds, soars, hits the appropriate set backs, and soars again, just like the story and its characters.

The writing also does a superb job of developing its characters properly. The cast members utilize the strengths of this script and soar with their performances. Both Matt Damon and Christian Bale are phenomenal in their roles and appear uncannily natural as partners, friends and kindred spirits. The movie has a wonderful supporting cast that includes Catriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, and several others. I was particularly impressed with young actor Noah Jupe who stars as Peter, Ken Miles’s son. Jupe’s character definitely represents a sense of wonderment that audience can experience while following these characters on this amazing journey.

And one doesn’t even have to be a car enthusiast or racing fan to appreciate what this movie has to offer. That is definitely what great sports movies do. They succeed in intriguing and enthralling the unintiated with an exciting version of their world. As far as die-hard fans are concerned, I cannot forsee anyone finding too many faults with this great depiction of their beloved sport. I have no idea if James Mangold is a fan of the sport, but he definitely has much love for this great true story.

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