It gets tedious seeing the same kinds of films over and over, so I really love movies that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. However, in the hunt for originality, you can’t ignore good, solid old-fashioned filmmaking when you come across it.
With the star power of Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and with director James Mangold behind the camera, Ford v. Ferrari overcomes its “based on a true story” cheesiness and becomes one of the more enjoyable films of the past year.
In the 1960’s, one man ruled the road at the famous Le Mans racetrack in France. His name was Enzo Ferrari, and his custom-made automobiles always triumphed on that track. Then Henry Ford, II, and his team of designers decided they wanted to reboot Ford as a sleek, sexy, macho car brand. So, Ford hired famed driver and designer Carol Shelby to create a car that could defeat Enzo Ferrari at Le Mans.
If you’re a racing fan, you already know that Ford defeated Ferrari at Le Mans in 1966, but Ford v. Ferrari shows you how they did it. As Carol Shelby, Matt Damon has the time of his life wearing a cowboy hat and putting the corporate bigwigs at Ford in their places with his Texas drawl.
Christian Bale gets a chance to dust off his native British accent to play driving whiz Ken Miles who possesses an almost Zen-like dedication to completing the “perfect lap” at Le Mans to defeat Ferrari on his European home turf.
Ford v. Ferrari is a genuine crowd-pleaser. It balances the riveting racing sequences with its character-driven sense of humor. James Mangold can be hit or miss as a filmmaker. He’s given audiences the outstanding Johnny Cash drama Walk the Line, but he was also behind the camera for the Marvel stinker The Wolverine. Fortunately, this time around he is firing on all cylinders – yes, I had to go there – and Ford v. Ferrari is a blast. The film hits Blu-ray and DVD and digital rental on February 11th.)
Another pair of veteran actors hit home video this week. Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen star in The Good Liar, a tale of two retirees who meet on a dating site, but all may not be as it seems. McKellan plays Roy Courtnay, a con man who swindles businesses with his partner played by Jim Carter whom many of you will know as Mr. Carson from the Downton Abbey TV series. Mirren plays Betty McLeish, a widow worth millions, who knows nothing of Roy’s thieving ways.
For the majority of its runtime, The Good Liar is an enjoyable game of cat-and-mouse. Is Roy running a con on Betty? Are they truly falling in love with each other? Or is there yet something else going on below the surface of what we’re seeing? All will be revealed in the end.
However, that conclusion is a bit on the lazy side. I call it a Scooby Doo ending – introducing new facts and new characters in the third act of a film to try to make sense of what we’ve seen so far. I enjoyed the performances of these veteran actors enough that I was still entertained by The Good Liar.
I didn’t entirely regret the journey because the destination was disappointing. When it comes to home video releases, you could do better, but you could easily do a lot worse. (The Good Liar is currently available on all digital rental platforms, Blu-ray and DVD).