by | May 28, 2024 | Cars, Leisure, Motor

I finally got around to watching Ferrari the other night. The Michael Mann-directed biopic on Enzo Ferrari, starring Adam Driver in the lead role, was released last Christmas, and with a reported budget of $95 million underwhelmed at the box office (just over $42 million worldwide).

The movie ended at two hours and five minutes, and I could have watched another hour. This is Mann’s best work since Heat (1995). Driver held the entire film in his hand, but it was Penelope Cruz in the role of Ferrari’s wife, Laura, that moved me the most. It was one of the best Cruz performances I have ever seen, a mix of anger at her husband’s marital affairs (Ferrari would have a child with another woman, played by Shailene Woodley, while still married to Laura), looming bankruptcy over the car company she and her husband founded ten years previous, and regret, a deep catacomb of sadness after the death of her only child (Alfredo, who died from muscular dystrophy in 1956)

Ferrari 2 1

That said, everything revolves around Driver. The only time his Enzo Ferrari appears lighthearted are during the flash back scene with Laura and their infant son. Ferrari loves and respects his drivers but is driven and drives them to win. That love of speed, power and competition almost costs him his company.

The movie builds to the horrifying crash sequence at La Mille Miglia in 1957, the 1,000-mile race across Italy that Ferrari wagered the future of his business on. The entire La Mille Miglia sequence reminded me a bit of the chariot race in Ben Hur. The possibility of death balances on a high wire, and the horrible death sequence from the race (which really happened), the Ferrari driven by Alfonso de Portago (who was among those killed) barrelling at 100 mph, was in part a result of that blind push to win. As he said in the movie, Ferrari was a racer to his core, and a car maker second.

Ferrari 3 1

“You lack commitment. Look at the Maserati team. Fangio. Behra. Stirling Moss. Hard-nosed pros. Men with a brutal determination to win. With a cruel emptiness in their stomachs. Detachment. Loyal to one thing- not the team. Loyal to their lust to win. It rains. The track is slippery with oil, an evil-handling car. Will they falter? No,” Ferrari tells his drivers.

“My spring team. Courageous? Skillful? Yes. Recently in school. Aristocrats straight from Almanach de Gotha. Gentleman sportsman. Very nice. On the straight into the tight corner at Nouveau Monde, there’s only one line through it. Behra pulls up next to you, challenging. You’re even. But two objects cannot occupy the same point in space at the same moment in time. Behra doesn’t lift. The corner races at you. You have perhaps a crisis of identity: “Am I a sportsman, or a competitor? How will the French think of me if I run Behra into a tree?” You lift, he passes. He won, you lost! Because at that same moment, Behra thought, “Fuck it, we both die.” Make no mistake, all of us are racers- or have been. We are all certain, “It will never happen to me.” Then my friend is killed. I give up racing forever on Monday. I’m back racing by Sunday. We all know it’s our deadly passion. Our terrible joy.”

One critic said Driver’s performance was too cold. That was the point of the character, a racing cyborg, hardened by the death of his young son, driven by his obsession to win. He almost sunk his company because the bean counters told him to start mass producing Ferraris, 400 a year, beyond production cars.

“Jaguar races only to sell cars. I sell cars only to be racing. We are completely different organisms.”

Ferrari (2023) Mille Miglia Crash Scene (Alfonso de Portago 1957)

We talk a lot about new television technology on this website, so if you’re going to watch a movie like Ferrari, watch it on an OLED TV. I watched it on a Sony Bravia. Mann captured the roar of the Ferrari engines like he captured the echoes and roar of the famous gun fight scene in the streets of Los Angeles in Heat. No movie maker captures sound like Mann.

And there’s a scene when a convertible banana yellow 335 S Ferrari pulls up to the factory during a rain storm, and stops, a car the King of Jordan was buying. The scene with the right television technology looks like a painting. I am not sure how many more movies Mann has left in him, but I will be sad when he steps away. Mann’s a true auteur. That’s what I saw in Ferrari.

Four out of five stars for Ferrari.

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