Ford v Ferrari Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

1963 The Ford Motor Corporation is going through hard times, and the head of the company, Henry Ford II (Tracey Letts), requires his managers to come up with something that will again attract buyers’ interest in Ford. Young manager Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) invites Henry to take up car racing – this should attract a relatively young audience.

Ford agrees with this and decides to buy Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone): Ferrari has not lost the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race since 1959, but its financial affairs are in a deplorable state.

Lee Iacocca and other managers go to Enzo to prepare a deal, however, when Ferrari finds out that under the contract his team will not be able to race without the approval of Henry Ford II, he becomes furious, breaks the contract and insults both the Ford Corporation and personally comrade Henry Ford II.

Ford, having learned about this, in turn becomes furious and declares that he will not spare any money, but for “Ford” his own racing car should be created and his own Ford team should be recruited, which in a short time should become the winner in the race “24 Hours of Le Mans” and wipe the nose of the arrogant Enzo Ferrari.

To solve this problem, the management of Ford invites former racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who was the only American who had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his time. Due to heart problems, Shelby was forced to retire from the sport, after which he took up the design of sports cars.

Shelby, in turn, enlists his old friend, racing driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), nicknamed “Bulldog” for his bad temper and quarrelsomeness, to work on the Ford GT40 car. But Shelby knows that Miles is not only a great racer with a great feel for the car, but also a talented engineer who can not only point out flaws, but also offer solutions. Only Miles can win this race, Shelby believes.

However, the management of Ford does not want to see racers in their team – Miles: he is too independent and not prone to compromise. Therefore, the Ford team’s first GT40 race went without Miles and ended in complete failure: none of the three GT40s made it to the finish line, and they had serious reliability problems.


The film is based on a true story: indeed, after an unsuccessful attempt to buy a Ferrari in 1963, Henry Ford II invested 25 million in the creation of his own racing car, created the Ford team, which, after a series of failures, already in 1966 triumphantly won the 24 Hours of Le Mana”: all three Ford GT Mark IIs finished in the top three places, and Ferrari’s best result in that race was just eighth.

A film project based on this story was developed at 20th Century Fox for a long time, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were planned for the main roles. After Jez and John-Henry Butterworth submitted their own version of the script, which was based on the book by the American journalist AJ Bayme “Drive with all your might: Ford, Ferrari and their battle for speed and glory at Le Mans”, the candidacies of Cruz and Pitt were dropped. . James Mangold (Logan, Knight of the Day, Train to Yuma, Identification) was invited to direct, with the arrival of which it was decided that Christian Bale and Matt Damon would play the main roles.

The film is quite long, it runs for two and a half hours. The first two hours are mostly devoted to how Shelby, Miles and other people debugged the Ford GT40 and struggled with its design flaws, along the way fighting off Ford managers trying to impose their decisions on the team, and the last third of the picture is devoted to the very famous race “24 Hours of Le -Mana” when the Ford team wiped the nose of the Ferrari.

Shelby and Miles are shown as such antipodes: Shelby is an unflappable pragmatist who understands the rules of the game well and acts as a kind of moderator between the Ford management and the little-managed Miles. And Ken Miles is a fanatic of cars and racing, a man who feels great about a car, but has a rather nasty character and a habit of cutting the truth in the eyes of everyone, completely without thinking about the consequences.

The relationship between on-screen Shelby and Miles is very interesting to watch. It is also interesting to watch how they oppose the management of a large corporation – each in his own way.

Both the main roles – Bale and Damon – are simply excellent. Damon’s character seems to be less bright – simply because he is not so unpredictable, but the image turned out to be solid and convincing. A couple of episodes with Shelby are really very touching.

Christian Bale had to urgently lose as many as 30 kilograms to play the role of Miles: he had recently become very fat for the role of Dick Cheney in the film “Power”. This is not the first time Bale has made such transformations with himself, but every time such willpower is simply amazing! Miles was great! An extremely difficult character, a certain obstinacy, while an amazing understanding of cars, an outstanding talent as a racer and engineer.

Miles’ relationship with his family – wife Molly (Catrione Balfe) and son Peter (Noah Jule) – are shown somewhat poster, but these are claims to the script, not to the actors, especially since Caitriona Balfe Molly played very well.

In general, regarding the “placarding” and certain Hollywood clichés that some reviewers speak of, yes, this is present to a certain extent here. But just Hollywood is Hollywood, and this film does not pull at all to scold, it is quite worthy of viewing.

The struggle of Shelby and Miles with Ford management is also full of such Hollywoodism: according to the film, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) is a kind of definitely bad radish jacket, and Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) is made of sympathetic radish jackets. This does not correlate much with reality, but Mangold, firstly, himself said that in the film, in the name of cinematography, it was necessary to deviate from real events at some points, and secondly, in the end these are such cinematic laws: Mangold was faced with the task is to make an interesting film, not to make a documentary about this story – he made an interesting film.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which is given almost an hour of screen time here, is the best thing in the film, and it is absolutely adrenaline and spectacular. I even regretted that I watched this film, albeit on the big screen, but on TV: I can imagine how it all looked in the cinema.

So, in general, I really liked the picture: it was staged great, played perfectly, the race was made very exciting. There are some claims to the script, but, I repeat, I don’t want to find fault with this.

Well, after watching the film, I read all sorts of articles – it was interesting to find out how everything really was there. We will talk about what in the film corresponds to reality and what does not, in PS for this review, so as not to spoil for those who have not yet seen the picture.

PS Well, now let’s talk about how it all happened in reality.

The deal with Ferrari was indeed in the making: it took several months to prepare, which Ford management spent in Italy, and it all cost Henry Ford II a very tidy sum. However, Enzo Ferrari pulled out of the deal when he found out that, under the terms of the contract, Ferrari would not be able to compete in the Indy 500 race, for which Ford supplied its engines, and Ferrari would also lose control of the financing of the racing program. In the film, it was shown that Ferrari was simply fooling Ford and raising the price to sell the Ferrari to Fiat, but Fiat did not actually acquire Ferrari until six years after that.

Carroll Shelby was an outstanding racing driver (16 world records) and was forced to retire from racing due to heart problems he had from birth. Interestingly, the real Shelby lived to the age of 89, while in 1990 he received a heart transplant from a 34-year-old donor, and in 1996 he received a kidney transplant, and his own son became the donor.

The film gives the impression that Shelby and Miles almost single-handedly create the GT40, but in reality it was a huge division, and four developers worked on the GT40: Briton Erica Broadley from Lola, who had a famous racing failure in 1964, after which the project passed to Shelby American, and after the second race in 1965, the American company Holman and Moody and the British Alan Mann Racing were involved in the project.

The head of the entire project was Leo Beebe (played by Josh Lucas in the film), it was he who was supposed to be the scapegoat if the project failed, and it was he who, among other things, deserved the merit that Ford won the confrontation, because Beebe was a very outstanding manager and he perfectly coordinated the work of various structures working on this car, smoothing out the contradictions between them. And, in general, it’s a shame to see how this person is shown in the film: a careerist who, in fact, only puts a spoke in everyone’s wheels in the name of his ambitions. It is, of course, also purely cinematic conventions, but nonetheless.

In reality, there was no such confrontation between Bibi, Shelby and Miles. What’s more, Miles actually raced at Le Mans in 1965, when no Ford cars made it to the finish line (in the movie, it’s shown that he was vilely suspended from the race). Leo Beebe really didn’t want to put Miles on the team because of his complex nature and individualism, but they really didn’t want to remove him, so the conflict with Miles in the film was greatly exaggerated. Shelby also never went all in with Henry Ford, offering to lose control of his company if Miles lost so Miles could race. Also, the scene with Ford crying after being driven by Shelby in the GT40 is clearly a fabrication. In reality, there was an episode when Miles drove Henry Ford on the GT40, but there is no evidence that Henry sobbed at the same time.

But about the quick-change brake system and testing the GT40 engine on a dyno – this is true, and this is what ensured the victory of the Ford GT40 in the race at that time: both the engine was fine-tuned and tested for Le Mans, and the problem with overheating of the brake system managed to solve. True, the replacement of the GT40 brake system right during the race caused other teams to accuse Ford of violating the rules, but formally this did not violate any rules.

Is it true that Ford management tried to keep Miles from winning? Yes, this is very true. The management really liked the idea of ​​almost simultaneously finishing all three Ford cars, and Miles was not only ordered to slow down and wait for the other two pilots, but there was also a murky story that Miles’ car, when changing the type, was accidentally put on the wrong brake system, so he I had to go into the pit stop again and at the same time he lost the advantage as much as four laps. The fact that McLaren was named the winner infuriated Miles, and he always believed that Ford managers had fucked him, and Shelby himself, who asked Miles to slow down, regretted it for the rest of his life. And Miles was robbed of his greatest accomplishment by these managerial games: winning one year of the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, even without this, he is considered one of the greatest racers in the world.

Was Enzo Ferrari at that famous race? No, I was not. But Mangold couldn’t help but do the scene with Enzo because it was so cinematic!

Did Ken Miles really die after the Le Mans race? Alas, yes, it is. In late 1966, while testing the new Ford J-Car racing car at 300 km/h, Ken flew off the track, his car rolled over several times, Miles flew out of the car and died. The cause of the accident was a technical malfunction.

Well, now some photos of real characters in this story.

Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby

Dan Gurney from the Ford team: it was he who came up with the idea of ​​pouring champagne on the podium

GT40 at the finish line of the same race

Henry Ford II and the Ford team on the podium

Team Ford on the podium, center – Ken Miles

Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren, Ken Miles and Danny Hulme after Le Mans

Henry Ford II

Enzo Ferrari

Ken Miles


Ford v Ferrari movie meaning

Producer: James Mangold


Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Caitriona Balfe, Tracey Letts, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Field

Budget: $97 million,

Global gross: $206 million
Sports Drama, USA-France, 2019, 152 min.

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