Ferrari review — Pedal to the metal

Directed by Michael Mann | Written by Troy Kennedy Martin and Brock Yates | 124 min | ▲▲▲▲△

The return of Michael Mann to feature filmmaking is an event. The last venture of one of the greatest American directors of genre was the first episode of the series he produced, Tokyo Vice, which was terrific, but his past couple of efforts on the big screen were mixed. Public Enemies was thrilling, but it took me a second screening years later to truly realize it and overlook some of the digital visuals that seemed at odds with its period setting. Maybe the less said about Blackhat the better.

Ferrari is a thrilling return to form. It’s his first biopic since Ali, giving Adam Driver a spectacular role as the deeply compromised Enzo Ferrari, silver-haired Italian automaker who, in the late 1950s, was struggling to keep his company afloat.

He ran it with his wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), who he spent more than a decade lying to about his infidelity with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley), a younger woman with whom he fathered a son. At this point in the story the boy is about ready to be confirmed, but whose last name will he have?

Ferrari sees a way to save his company through two options: partnering with a larger company to inject capital, and racing — if his team wins a forthcoming cross-country race, hopefully more than 98 people a year will want to purchase his sports car.

The film is surprisingly light on racing sequences until the third act, which is devoted to that race. It’s some of the most exciting vehicular mayhem I’ve seen since Baby Driver, expertly shot with, let’s admit it, far more beautiful cars. It’s here where the cost of unfettered competition and a passion for speed is revealed — it is high and brutal.

Driver cuts an impressive figure as Ferrari — his Italian accent a lot more measured than it was in that other recent movie. He’s someone who never seems to have a moment of doubt about his decision-making, and yet has clearly made many mistakes. Cruz is passionate and convincing as Laura, and though the film denies us a showdown between her and Lina, the undercurrent of deceit in that central relationship between the Ferraris is the fuel that drives this thing as much as those cherry red machines.

An odd but appealing casting choice is Patrick Dempsey as silver-haired driver Piero Taruffi in a sea of Italians speaking English, but he acquits himself well.

Seeing this film the same week as The Iron Claw clarifies and accentuates their overlapping themes: the real cost of unremitting competition, and the river of toxicity that flows when men are in charge of everything. How different is Enzo Ferrari from Fritz Von Erich? Well, the Italian looks like he might be a better father to his boy, but a lot less so as a father figure to his drivers.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.