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Review: 'Ford V Ferrari'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I got to warn you here. If you go see the new movie, "Ford V Ferrari," in a theater, get ready for your seat to vibrate as if you're flying on a racetrack at 200 miles an hour.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FORD V FERRARI")

MATT DAMON: (As Carroll Shelby) You ready?

TRACY LETTS: (As Henry Ford II) Hit it.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLE ENGINE REVVING)

GREENE: It is the story of the Detroit automaker deciding in 1966 to build a race car and compete with Ferrari in a legendary race in France. There is speed, there is action, but this is also the story of two men, played by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, who hold the keys to Ford's success here. MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan is here to talk about it. Hey, Kenny.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, David. How you doing?

GREENE: I'm good. Are you a car guy?

TURAN: I am not a car guy. I grew up in Brooklyn. My parents did not own a car. I didn't drive till I was in my 20s. So cars are far from my, you know, my range of experience.

GREENE: But you like a good car movie?

TURAN: I love a good movie. And the thing about "Ford V Ferrari," it's a classic Hollywood movie. If you love the movies, if you love the old silent moviemaking, if you're one of these people who say, why don't they make them like they used to, well, they made them like they used to with this one.

GREENE: What do you mean by that? What makes it classic?

TURAN: First of all, it's very dramatic. It's great characters. It's strong acting. It's a strong plot. It's very involving. It's made in a way that's very exciting. The editing is crisp. The sound, as you mentioned, is terrific.

GREENE: Bold.

TURAN: It pulls you in. Everything you love about a film, this film does.

GREENE: You know, when it comes to the plot, I sort of expected this to be a story about, you know, Ford versus Ferrari, American pride versus Italian swagger. A lot of it is about an American company, Ford.

TURAN: Yeah. You know, there's more conflicts in this movie than we usually get. I mean, first of all, even Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, the two main people in the film, who are a team, they have conflicts with each other. Then they have conflicts with the people at Ford, who are normally their sponsors. So there's all kinds of conflict going on all the time.

GREENE: You learn about the culture in a corporation like Ford.

TURAN: Yeah. They very much talk about that. It's fascinating. You know, Henry Ford II, who they call The Deuce...

GREENE: Right.

TURAN: ...You know, is very much in charge. He's an old style, kind of corporate autocrat. But underneath him, there's Lee Iacocca. There's a man named Leo Beebe. There's fights about what Ford should be doing, who has The Deuce's ear. I mean, again, there's all these subplots going on that just add to the excitement.

GREENE: Matt Damon plays the carmaker who's hired by Ford, Christian Bale, the driver. How do their characters work?

TURAN: Well, you know, they're both fascinating as individuals, and their relationship is equally involving. They're both iconoclasts. They both go against the mold. But because they're iconoclasts, even though they're good friends, they battle with each other. They have different ideas about what should be done. And there's this constant, wonderful dramatic tension in the film. The only quiet moments - and I know you're a fan of this, too - is the moments between Ken Miles and his wife.

GREENE: Yes. Ken Miles is the driver, played by Christian Bale. Matt Damon, Christian Bale - this is a movie about these two people who are at the center of Ford's efforts here. But there is a third character who really helps make this movie.

TURAN: Yes. They made a very shrewd decision, and they executed it very well. Irish actress named Caitriona Balfe plays Miles' wife, Mollie. And she is able to stand up to him in the most wonderful ways. I mean, I was thinking of it this morning. It was like Bogart and Bacall. They have this great back-and-forth relationship. She is really right there holding your attention. The scenes between the two of them are some of the best in the film.

GREENE: Christian Bale, seeing him was shocking. I mean, his last role was as Dick Cheney.

TURAN: Yes.

GREENE: I mean, he does - he looks like a different person.

TURAN: He lost 70 pounds between Dick Cheney and this role, and his face looks angular. He's almost like a bird of prey. He just has kind of intensified himself and turned himself into Ken Miles in a way that, really, only the greatest actors can do.

GREENE: The movie is "Ford V Ferrari." Talking about it here with Kenneth Turan, who reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for The Los Angeles Times. Kenny, always good to see you.

TURAN: Great to see you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.