Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari

If you avoided seeing Ford v Ferrari because you aren’t interested in car racing, you might just reconsider. Why did I avoid it? Car racing and all-male casts have never drawn my interest. How could an audience be held in suspense for two and a half hours of men speeding around in circles to a deafening soundtrack? Yet finally, there I was in the movie, on that track, rooting for the good guys.

During a five-year sales slump at the Ford Motor company, designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) begins to wonder how to make the Ford badge stand for victory rather than loss. When he confronts Ford president Henry Ford II with the need for dramatic change – “You can’t win a race by committee,” Shelby lures Ford into a dramatic shift in the company culture.

When Shelby turns to driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the movie soars into high gear. It is Bale’s superb performance as a race car lover that lifts both the movie and the audience into another world. His love of racing is driven by more than passion. It’s obsession. Miles, a good human being, becomes a man driven by this in a way few of us have ever seen or felt. His is a superb passage from determination to success. Christian Bale’s creation of this character is sublime.

As we watch this driver, we learn he has an astonishingly fine wife, Mollie (Caitrona Balf), and a young son Peter (Noah Jupe) who is already in love with racing. In their touching performances, these actors create a family of three who audiences come to love. Though their family story doesn’t dominate the film, they deliver a rare and beautiful portrait of a family where each supports the other. The beauty comes as we begin to understand the mutual love among the three in spite of the danger and preoccupation of the husband/father. It’s not ordinary to see family love as subtle as this.

This story explores men to their cores. Drivers are passionate competitors. Businessmen are successful bores like Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). Watch quiet, capable actor Matt Damon eat away at Henry Ford’s business personality as he lures him to the core of love for racing. Damon creates a tough, controlled ex-racer who infects Ford with the excitement of breaking all the rules of his business.

This is a cast that manages to take a theater that is bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. Writers/brothers Jez and John Henry Butterworth and director James Mangold have created a film that is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius, and obsession. These details are given us with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to become a body moving through space and time at 7000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Ford v Ferrari
Word Count : 499
Running Time: 2:32
Rating : PG-13
Date : December 8, 2019

Knives Out

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Knives Out

See Knives Out when you’re in that blissful movie mood of wanting to sit in the dark waiting to be transported to a different time and place. Actors, writers, and director Rian Johnson all moved together on this one to create a place we have never been before and it is magical. Let the mood roll over you slowly.

Mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has been found dead in his home of a head wound at 85. As police stand on the scene, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates Thrombey’s dysfunctional family and devoted staff. All had gathered for the old man’s birthday. We quickly begin to see that nothing here is ordinary.

In an atmosphere of other worldliness, every room in the house is full of odd, unexplained furnishings and possessions of the dead man. His family is rather ordinary but his surroundings are eccentric. As we are pulled into this strange story, the inventive filming drops us quickly into wondering where we are being taken by this family.

We fasten quickly on the girl we met in the first scene who was hired to take care of Mr. Thrombey while he lived alone in his old mansion. Young Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) is his young nurse and in the first scene we watch her set the stage for everything that follows. Detective Blanc absorbs the atmosphere and the family quietly as police do their ordinary investigative job.

Who killed Harlan Thrombey? As we are introduced to each family member, we realize they are individual nutcases, more politely, eccentrics, and we watch detective Blanc as he quietly absorbs the family one by one in his search for the killer. Every one of the dead man’s adult children wants the inheritance.

Because we in the audience know from the beginning how the old man died, we never have to wonder about that. Instead we concentrate entirely on the behavior and personalities of the family as detective Blanc tries to unravel the mystery. Watching the clues build is such fun that I’ll give no details here. All that is building at the same time in the mind of detective Blanc as he watches the behavior of the family and nurse Marta.

The whole is beautifully filmed. A car chase, the mansion’s interior, the strange family – none of it is ordinary and we feel we are in some unknowable world that is riveting our attention. That’s it. The movie feels as if it’s made in another time in another world and we are in that world while the detective tries to unravel the complex reality of what surrounds him.

Look forward to fine performances and to a final scene that is a sharp, sophisticated thrust by the reality of what we have been watching. All the experts who made this movie knew exactly how to design something that would stun us. Fun, curiosity, suspense, talent? It’s all right there in this non-violent murder mystery.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Knives Out
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:11
Rating : PG-13
Date : November 2019