‘Ford v Ferrari’ reviews: It’s an ‘exhilarating’ race movie, but is it just as good off the track?

Ford v Ferrari” opened on November 15 with strong awards prospects, coming from Oscar nominated filmmaker James Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “Logan”) and starring Oscar winners Christian Bale and Matt Damon. It’s also a sports movie, and those have paid off handsomely at the Oscars as well, including Best Picture winners “Rocky” (1976) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) as well as nominees like “Seabiscuit” (2003) and “Moneyball” (2011). But what do critics think of this latest entry in the genre?

As of this writing the film has a MetaCritic rating of 79 based on 36 reviews counted thus far: 31 positive, 5 mixed, none outright negative. Over on Rotten Tomatoes the film is rated 91% fresh based on 177 reviews, only 16 of which are classified as rotten. The RT critics consensus summarizes those reviews by saying, “‘Ford v Ferrari’ delivers all the polished auto action audiences will expect — and balances it with enough gripping human drama to satisfy non-racing enthusiasts.”

MC rates films on a sliding scale of 0-100, so they’re generally better at gauging the nuances of critical opinion, while RT is rated on a strictly pass/fail basis, giving you an indication only of thumbs up or thumbs down. The fact that the MC score is a little lower than the RT score indicates that the overwhelming majority of critics like the film, but the degree of enthusiasm isn’t quite as strong. However, five of those MC reviews are rated a perfect 100, so there is definitely passionate support for the film there too.

Telling the true story of a driver (Bale) and a car designer (Damon) who team up to help the Ford Motor Company win the 1966 Le Mans auto race, the film is being described as “rollicking,” “exhilarating” and “terrifying” in its depiction of the “thrillingly” captured racing sequences. It’s also a “moving depiction of male friendship” with “well cast” actors. Mangold has also been compared to Steven Spielberg in how he also lands “nearly all the laugh lines and emotional beats in-between” the centerpiece race scenes.

The film has also been called out by some, though, for “cliche storytelling,” its overwhelming representation of “white men looking to out-alpha male one another,” and limited character detail that doesn’t let us “get to know much about who they really are off the track.” What do you think? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans here in our forums.

Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times): “Whether you care about motorsports or not, ‘Ford v Ferrari’ is a kick: both a rollicking true story well told, and a moving depiction of male friendship … The actors … are well cast; the atmosphere has a ‘Mad Men’-like coolness; and the racing sequences — particularly the long, ultimate Le Mans race — are a thrill on the big screen.”

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “Director James Mangold (‘Walk the Line’) makes two races — Daytona and Le Mans — the centerpieces of the story, and shoots them thrillingly. But he also succeeds in an almost Spielberg-ian way in landing nearly all the laugh lines and emotional beats in between; the signal moments of friendship and connection between the two men (and their clashes, too).”

Barbara VanDenburgh (Arizona Republic): “It’s a dad movie that hits all the expected, cliché storytelling beats on cue … Its universe is one peopled almost entirely with white men looking to out-alpha male one another — a fantasy of the 1960s and not a reflection of the actual era … But then — then, there are those racing sequences, fast and loud and obliterating, every gear shift clicked into place with gritted teeth. They’re exhilarating and terrifying, and all you want is to win.”

Candice Frederick (The Wrap): “With a staggering two-and-a-half-hour runtime, you’d think director James Mangold (with writers Jason Keller and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth) would have delved more deeply into the interior lives of its two protagonists … While it’s established that they have a kinship, we don’t get to know much about who they really are off the track, which would have helped to humanize the narrative.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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