Ferrari (2023)

September 1st, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Michael Mann | Cast: Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, Penelope Cruz, Jack O’Connell, Sarah Gadon | US Action drama 127′

Motor-racing is a dangerous business. And this slick production from Michael Mann highlights the dangers, not just for the drivers but also the general public, paying tribute to the citizens of Guidizzolo where ten spectators were mown down in a crash that also killed Spanish Ferrari driver Alfonso de Portago, and brought to a close the Mille Milia competition. The film opens with the loss of his favourite driver in a time trial, when playboy de Portago (Gabriel Leone) stepped into the breach. But his star is a doomed one.

Ferrari is not the first feature about motor-racing but it’s certainly one of the most glossy and expensive-looking. The thrill of the track was brought to life in Le Mans 66 (2019) with the focus on the famous partnership between Ford and Ferrari and their respective drivers; Mosley: It’s Complicated looked at the lawyer’s efforts to improve safety in the sport, and Darryl Goodrich’s 2017 documentary Ferrari: Race to Immortality honours the daredevil 1950s Ferrari team-mates Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn. And Collins also makes an appearance here played by Jack O’Connell.

But the spotlight here is firmly on the life of Enzo Ferrari and his entrepreneurial spirit during the perilous early days of Formula One in the Summer of 1957. Adam Driver certainly looks the part in his elegant hand-made suits and dark glasses, and is very much the driving force of this enjoyable action drama. Penelope Cruz gives a shouty, one-note performance as his embittered wife and business partner Laura. The death of their only son has destroyed the marriage and Ferrari has taken up with Linda (Woodley) the mother of his heir. Whether the boy will inherit the Ferrari name and keep the brand alive is one of the film’s main preoccupations. And the frumpy Laura is determined to put a spanner in the works with her permanent frown and maudlin disposition.

The cars often take a back seat to the family drama but there’s plenty of fun and fireworks on the track to keep fans entertained: Enzo is keen to keep speed and quality in pole position where his cars are concerned. Sadly, a great deal of backstory, including de Portago’s love story with Linda Christian (Gadon) – who famously gave him the “kiss of death’ before his final race – is glossed over to cut the running time down to just over two hours, and this in some way affects the film’s emotional ballast. We don’t really feel for any of these people, least of all Laura in her justifiable grief.

Mann incorporates plenty of original footage, early clips cleverly manipulated to show Driver at the wheel. And although some of his dialogue is decidedly creaky not so Erik Messerschmidt’s magnificent set pieces which capture the races on impressive wide screen sequences. This is solid entertainment adapted for the screen by Troy Kennedy Martin and based on the book ‘Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine’. MT









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