When I first heard about the movie Ferrari, I was pretty excited.
I really enjoy movies about auto racing, some of my favorites being Grand Prix (1966) and Le Mans (1971).
I was frankly a little surprised that we were seeing another movie about race car legend Enzo Ferrari, following the release of Ford v Ferrari in 2019, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Granted, Enzo Ferrari was a secondary character in the story, which focused instead on race car designer Carroll Shelby and world class driver Ken Miles.
What caught my attention was the director of Ferrari, Michael Mann, who, interestingly had an executive producer credit on Ford v Ferrari. He had apparently wanted to make a movie about Enzo Ferrari for over 20 years.
Mann is among my favorite filmmakers having directed movies like The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The Insider (1999) and Collateral (2004). He made his mark with the Miami Vice TV series in the Eighties, both producing and directing high octane action entertainment. Ferrari seemed to have some real potential with Michael Mann behind the wheel.
The casting also caught my eye, with Adam Driver appearing as Enzo Ferrari, Penelope Cruz as Laura Ferrari (Enzo’s wife) and Shailene Woodley as Lina Lardi (Ferrari’s mistress and mother of his love child son).
Driver looked the part with Hollywood makeup aging techniques.
The media was abuzz with Penelope Cruz’s fiery performance, hinting that she might win a nomination for best actress.
The preview clips roared with revved up racing sequences. There was talk and the predictable promotional hype suggesting that that this might be the best racing movie ever made. It seemed to have all the ingredients.
Sadly, Ferrari never lives up to its potential. The movie centers on Ferrari’s personal life—a balancing act between his business partner wife and his adoring mistress. While his wife is aware of his extramarital affairs, she is willing to tolerate them, within the parameters of guidelines that she has established. When Ferrari crashes through the guard rails of those restrictions, all hell breaks loose.
In an early scene, Laura points a pistol at Enzo and fires it into the wall behind him at the last second, missing him by inches.
Ferrari does not lack drama. Unfortunately, it is more soap opera drama than formula one racing drama on the countryside tracks.
Racing fans and Michael Mann fans will be disappointed in the action footage which largely amounts to beauty shots of brightly painted vintage racing cars navigating the straightaways and sharp turns.
The sequences are a far cry from much older movies like Grand Prix which used innovative camera technology to capture formula one racing on sweeping, 70mm, wide screen format.
One shot—forever burned into my memory, began with a driver’s exhilarating point of view, as a car sped along the track, then, in one, smooth, 180-degree, robotic pan, the camera rotated back to show the driver, which turned out to be the star of the movie, James Garner. It was a shot done without camera trickery or green screen effects—one that not only captured the frightening speed and danger of Formula One racing but also established Garner’s as a bonified race car enthusiast and skilled driver. It was a mind-blowing cinematic moment that I will never forget.
Sadly, there is never a goose-bumps moment like that in Ferrari, and that’s a real shame when you consider all the modern advancements in camera and drone technology that have developed since 1966.
You expect much more than this movie delivers, in the way of racing thrills.
To its credit, Ferrari does deliver a show-stopping sequence near the end of the movie guaranteed to knock you out of your seat. It is a horrifying accident, based on a real-life event in which many onlookers were injured and nine spectators were killed in a horrifying moment, which left mangled bodies and dismembered body parts gruesomely strewn across the ground.
It’s a riveting, stand-alone moment in a movie that otherwise seems content to largely delve into the romantic tug of war that was Enzo Ferrari’s private life, with shots of beautifully sculpted, thunderous vintage racing machines thrown in, almost as an afterthought.
Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz shine in Michael Mann’s Ferrari, a movie more focused on Enzo Ferrari’s personal life than his legendary triumphs and failures in the world of racing.