Jordan Canahai’s review published on Letterboxd:
Vince Lombardi once famously said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." It was this philosophy that also inspired Ford motor company to do something unprecedented in 1966; assemble a ragtag if highly qualified team of experts to produce a new vehicle, the Ford GT40, in order to emerge victorious at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, which had previously been dominated by the Ferrari racing team year after year. This real-life battle for automotive supremacy provides the backdrop for James Mangold's highly satisfying sports drama Ford v Ferrari, which effectively combines drama and comedy to tell a thought-provoking and entertaining story about the unlikely friendship that formed between two very different personalities who were ultimately united in their passion for cars and racing.
Those two men were American automobile designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and brash British race car driver Ken Myles (Christian Bale). Shelby is married to his job and regarded as a reliable employee of Ford motors by company higher-ups, but is told early in the film by doctors he has heart problems and will be unable to drive at high speeds, thus igniting in him a desire to do something extraordinary given a renewed outlook on his mortality. Myles is a brilliant driver and happily married family man as well as a loving father to an adolescent son, but his short-temper and brusque personality tends to rub people the wrong way. On their own the two men's differing personalities mix like oil and water, but when united with a common mission and fueled by a similar competitive drive, they become like a match and gasoline. Once committed to designing and driving a vehicle that will emerge in first place at Le Mans, all their differences eventually fall to the wayside as a mutual camaraderie begins to take shape, even as corporate influences press back stronger against them. All the while the threat of something going terribly wrong on the race track and the possibilities of fatal accidents loom very real over their heads. The veteran actors Damon and Bale mesh extraordinarily well together on-screen, and the supporting cast featuring Jon Bernthal, Caitrona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Ray McKinnon, and Remo Girone are also given moments to shine. Mangold's direction isn't anything revolutionary, but it doesn't need to be given the demands of the material, and he manages to make 24 hours worth of racing exciting in about 20 minutes of screentime. The screenplay can come off a bit formulaic at times, but thankfully the strength of the performances are enough to recommend Ford v Ferrari as an engaging and compelling true-life story about the dedicated professionals who sacrificed a great deal in the name of engineering ingenuity.