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Ferrari film review: More man than machine

Michael Mann’s Ferrari thrills, bores and confuses in equal measure, leaving a lingering question that is impossible to shake: was it any good?

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari

Of course, the purpose of any review is to add some clarity to this question and inform on whether this is worth 131 minutes of your time, so let’s try to deduce some answers.

Starting with a huge positive, there are no poor performances in Ferrari. In the lead role as Enzo Ferrari, Adam Driver truly shines with a thoughtful performance highlighting the flawed genius of Il Commendatore.

Similarly, Penelope Cruz plays the part of the grieving, embittered wife – Laura – perfectly, with Gabriel Leone putting in a stellar turn as the focal hotshot talent Alfonso de Portago.

Yes, some of the Italian accents do slip at times and it is difficult at first to fully understand what is being said but, as you get further into the film, this is less of an issue.

Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, Ferrari centres around the 1957 Mille Miglia and its crucial importance to the survival of Ferrari as an automotive manufacturer. Providing some off-track drama, a secondary yet still central plot follows, detailing Ferrari’s failing relationship with his wife and the secret of his mistress, Lina Lardi [Shailene Woodley], with whom he has a son, Piero [Giuseppe Festinese].

If you were expecting thrill-a-minute racing from start to finish, the above is unlikely to be welcome news to you. What will be even worse to hear is that a decent portion of the racing action is actually shown in the trailer. Yes, there is some wheel-banging that has not been shared in advance, but this lasts for no longer than one minute and is over before it has really begun.

Gabriel Leone as Alfonso De Portago

Photo by: ©Sky UK Ltd ©Blackbearpictures

Gabriel Leone as Alfonso De Portago

On the plus side, the sound is turned up to 11 whenever the cars are on track. At the cinema, in which this writer viewed Ferrari, it quite literally sent shivers up your spine!

But – and that is a word that seemingly most aspects of Ferrari are hindered by – the frustrating trope of just changing up a gear or pressing the throttle harder to make an overtake is repeatedly used, while the positioning of cars, when the race does finally get underway 90 minutes into the film, is all over the place and impossible to follow. There is only so much of this that can be made up for by the stunning beauty shots of these iconic cars driving through mountains.

Coming to the worst aspect though, the CGI used on the two major crashes that underpin the film is appalling. Both involve a singular car flying through the air and, in the first instance, it appears that a comedy stuffed toy has been thrown from the car rather than a person. This takes you right out of what is supposed to be an incredibly impactful moment and almost made this writer giggle at the dreadful quality.

In the second, while the incident itself holds significant shock value as it involved the death of nine spectators, including five children, the CGI fails to convey any of the emotion that is expected.

However, the practical effects of the aftermath are truly horrifying and more than make up for this.
Away from the racing, two extremely jarring sex scenes out of nowhere and an ending that lacks any real resolution left this writer perplexed. When not at the track, the pace also drops often to a crawl, with one notable shot of Cruz staring silently into the middle distance lasting for far longer than was necessary.

The conversations between the lead characters never fail to progress the story and, as already stated, while the acting is top-notch, it could have been condensed greatly.

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari

Photo by: ©Sky UK Ltd ©Blackbearpictures

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari

Despite this string of negativity, Ferrari is a genuinely engaging insight into one of the most brutal periods of motor racing history. Could things be paced better? Yes. Could there have been more actual racing? Yes. Would extra racing have benefitted the story? That’s debatable. Certainly, it is far from perfect.

Whether you will enjoy Ferrari or not ultimately comes down to a matter of taste. If you want something in the style of Rush, this will scratch an itch but not in a wholly satisfying way.

But if you are looking to see more of Ferrari the man rather than the manufacturer, this will give you a peek behind the curtain.

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