Review – Ferrari

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Overview

Synopsis Over the summer of 1957, Enzo Ferrari faces challenges to his reputation, family, and auto company that could destroy his life and ambitions.

Length 2 Hours 10 Minutes

Release Date December 25, 2023

 

Rating R

Distribution Neon

Directing Michael Mann

Writing Troy Kennedy Martin

Composition Daniel Pemberton

Starring Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Gabriel Leone, Jack O'Connell, Patrick Dempsey

The great Michael Mann is back! The acclaimed 80-year-old director of Heat, The Insider, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, Ali, Miami Vice, Collateral, and Public Enemies has resurfaced from a near-decade exile in director’s jail with his first film since 2015’s forgotten thriller Blackhat

Having successfully published the New York Times Bestselling novel Heat 2 in 2022, Mann is now back in the director’s chair with his newest film and preparing to finance and shoot an ambitious adaptation of his new book in the coming year. 

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: One horrific crash sequence with multiple brutal deaths and bodies depicted as crushed and missing limbs, another scene with a car crash resulting in a man being thrown from the vehicle to his death. A woman firing a gun at a man and missing.
Language/Crude Humor: Severe language throughout, including multiple uses of f***
Drug/Alcohol References: Frequent smoking and drinking throughout
Sexual Content: Sex and adultery are frequent themes in the film, with a few sex scenes and brief nudity depicted
Spiritual Content: Most of the characters are implicitly Catholic, with one character’s Confirmation ceremony being a major plot point
Other Negative Content: Themes of lying, corruption, adultery, and worldly legacy
Positive Content: A nuanced and measured depiction of one man’s accomplishments and failures

Review

Enzo Ferrari is a fascinating historical figure. His name is synonymous with one of the most famous brands of luxury cars in the world. He’s an icon of Italian history and a formative figure in the history of cars and racing. Unfortunately, he also lived a complicated life, fathering a child out of wedlock and overseeing many public scandals and controversial moments in his lifetime. 

This legacy has fascinated the great film director Michael Mann, who has been attempting to produce an adaptation of Ferrari’s life on film for decades as a passion project. After an impressive three-decade film career, Mann finally saw his $95 million passion project escape into theaters over Christmas weekend. 

While the movie can most accurately be described as messy and uneven, it is also a film I cannot help but feel excited about. There is a lot of passion and solid filmmaking on display in Ferrari, with a solid character performance by Adam Driver and some of the best recent sound design in a movie alongside last year’s Zone of Interest. It’s melodramatic, goofy, brutal, and bizarre, and it is clearly something everyone who made it is proud of (even if Driver is getting criticized for his Italian accent). 

The film is set in a short period of Enzo Ferrari’s life in the summer of 1957, and two major events are approaching. Ferrari’s illegitimate son is set to be confirmed in the Catholic Church and his car company is set to debut its new Formula One car at Mille Miglia. Ferrari is revealed to have had an affair during the Second World War that resulted in a child, whom he is subsidizing along with his mother while remaining married to his wife Laura, who lost her son the previous year. 

Ferrari explores many fascinating aspects of Enzo Ferrari’s life, from his relationships to his love of cars, his relationship with the media and the government, and even briefly touches on his faith and love of his home country of Italy. 

It is difficult to summarize these complex subjects satisfyingly, and it is all too likely that it doesn’t do as well as it ought to. As Citizen Kane reminds us, it isn’t easy to summarize a man’s life in so few words. People are complicated, and Ferrari tries to communicate that by painting its cast as frustrated and fully rounded characters who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, failing each other in the process. 

Ferrari likely rushes through too much of this, letting audiences already familiar with the subject of Enzo Ferrari’s life recognize its attention to detail, but maybe painting with too broad of strokes to encapsulate the man in words beyond “complicated.” The controversies surrounding his life paint a man who was troubled and difficult, yet also caring and thoughtful of his legacy and that of his family. His name now lives on forever through his cars, while his illegitimate son now carries his family name and works at his father’s company, despite the wishes of Emily Ferrari.

If I may make a gratuitous comparison though, it is inefficient. In James Mangold’s film Ford vs. Ferrari, he paints a similar figure to Henry Ford II, who struggles to legitimize his company in the decades after his legendary Detroit-based automotive company has become less prominent. His company has gone from being the innovator of the Model T to a cut-rate company that appeals to nobody. When he finally sees the work his racing team has accomplished, he cries tears of joy reflecting that he wishes his father could see what his company would accomplish after his death. 

This one scene is more effective at communicating a simple idea than many in Ferrari, and yet both films are doing two very different things. Ford vs. Ferrari isn’t necessarily biographical, while Ferrari wants to capture the fullness of the man as he was in this one moment in time, and it does so somewhat inelegantly at points.

That said, Mann’s passion is unassailable, and I hope the film serves as a launching pad for one of our greatest living director’s future ambitions. Ferrari is flawed and messy, but it is a work from an essential filmmaker who was passionate in his desire to see the complicated man of one man brought to the big screen.

Positives

+ Some Great Supporting Performances
+ Passionate Attention to History and Detail
+ Great Racing Sequences and Sound Design

Negatives

- Adam Driver's Goofy Italian Accent
- Weak Script

The Bottom Line

Ferrari is an imperfect and severely flawed movie from one of the most accomplished directors of crime thrillers, and will likely serve as a launching pad for more ambitious projects in the future...even if the final product isn't perfect.

 

7

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Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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