‘Ford v Ferrari’ Review: It’s a Gas

‘Ford v Ferrari’ Review: It’s a Gas

Hi, this is Jim Mangold, director of ‘Ford v Ferrari.’ As we begin this sequence, we’re at the top of the third act of the film, and Christian Bale, playing Ken Miles, is walking out about 10 minutes before the race begins to prepare to start a 24 hour race at Le Mans. My camera kind of tries to set up what this place looks like in the stands, and the spectacle of it. We’ve seen it earlier in the film empty, but never seen it in this moment in full flower, packed with crowds and about to go. The point for me, or the strategy here, was to kind of show the calm before the storm. There’s a lot of pageantry and everyone’s tense. Here’s Matt Damon, who plays Carroll Shelby, joining Christian, looking over the Ferrari cars as they go by, which are their chief nemesis in the race and the most brilliantly engineered cars that exist at that point, “Looks flash, don’t it?” “Eh, looks aren’t everything.” Enzo Ferrari in the stands watching over them. For me, the goal in this sequence was to show the kind of stress that everyone is living with, but playing down, going about their tasks, getting ready to start the race. “You can take ‘em. Four minutes, Ken. Four minutes, buddy.” “Live from Le Mans, France—” “Mom! Come on.” ”—it’s the world’s most—” – Alright, coming ”—brutal, torturous automobile race.” Here we see Ken Miles’ family back at home in Los Angeles watching. For all the characters you see, these Ford executives— that’s Jon Bernthal is Lee Iacocca, Enzo Ferrari— all the characters brought to this point in time with the fate and their future at stake in this race. That’s kind of the reason the whole film is building up to what becomes an almost hour long race of many chapters and many adventures, and the lead trading many times. Beautiful tradition at Le Mans that’s long since passed is that all the drivers start on the opposite side of the road from their cars. I thought this was a really unique opportunity to stage a kind of start of a race in a different way with each driver uncontained by the shell of their car, just left with their own thoughts standing there on the side of the road moments before they have to leap in the cars, turn the ignition, and begin what will be a 24-hour endurance test for them in the vehicle. [MUSIC PLAYING] [ANNOUNCER SPEAKING FRENCH] This next shot was a bear to get, but one I really wanted to get in one piece, which is feeling all the drivers leaping in and pulling out. What makes it difficult? Well, we shot with real cars, not digital ones. So getting 25 expert drivers to drive vintage and semi-vintage cars pulling out all in unison from the stands with 400 extras, is a challenge. And of course, the light’s beautiful. We waited for the right moment to do the shot. All of that to create a kind of moment of expectation as this race begins. “What happened to Miles?” [MUSIC PLAYING, TIRES SCREECHING] One of the very true and kind of interesting facts of the race that I wanted to very much replicate was that Ken Miles in his very first lap had a malfunction immediately with the door of his car. He couldn’t shut it. So he’s driving in excess of 150 miles an hour on a track with a door that won’t shut, and is already after— preparing for this race and preparing this car for so long, running into trouble in the most mundane of ways. You might notice that I’m shooting this sequence very much from the point of view of the driver or very close to the road. My goal was to somehow tell the story of an auto race, but not emulate the coverage you see on sports shows, but to put you much more behind the wheel and on the track so that you’re feeling much more what these drivers feel. Not only the harrowing nature of the speed and the thrills and the danger, but also the adrenaline and the excitement and the sense of even a kind of perfection that they’re chasing when the driving is going right for them. “Where the hell is Ken?” “I don’t know.” The actual work of the visual effects team in this sequence is much less about the cars and much more about the stands. We built about a football field length of grandstand, but obviously I couldn’t afford to shoot every day with 20,000 people in the stands, so the work of our many visual effects people are extending our backgrounds to the horizon and also populating the stands. “The bloody door won’t close. All right, all right.” I kind of saw this movie as a ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in reverse. It’s much more of a drama, I think, than many people expect when they see the film for 3/4 of the film, and we put almost all our resources into giving you kind of pretty intense action sequence at the third act of the film. “Go, go, go.” [TIRES SCREECHING, ENGINE REVVING]

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