Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Twenty years after an Italian biopic about the famed Italian racing car driver/racing car builder, Enzo Ferrari, the versatile Adam Driver assumes the title role. Unlike the earlier and much longer Ferrari going back to Enzo’s childhood, this film only covers the pivotal year of 1957 in which Enzo literally bets the farm on his new line of race cars to defeat his main competition, the Maserati car company. Driver’s Ferrari has a complicated personal life: a mistress in an isolated home in a Modena suburb, Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) who has borne his son Piero (Giuseppe Festinese) and a wife Laura (Penelope Cruz). The Ferraris’ marriage has been troubled for a long time and deteriorated even further when their only son Dino died from complications of muscular dystrophy.
Enzo is readying his auto racing team for the biggest event of the season, the famed Mille Miglia—Thousand Miles—across Italy. At the same time, the Ferrari company has major debt and will need the infusion of cash from another automobile company or go out of business. The sticking point is that Laura is a co-owner of Ferrari motors, and must give Enzo control of her shares so he can negotiate a good deal. Laura’s contingency is that her husband writes her a check for half a million dollars that she cannot cash until the deal is completed.
Ferrari has assembled an all-star cast of drivers led by Alfonso de Portago (Gabriel Leone), Peter Collins (Jack O’Connell), and Piero Taruffi (Patrick Dempsey) who prepare for the big race. Meanwhile, Laura has finally found out about Enzo’s mistress and his other son. The Mille Miglia takes off and while the results may not be all that surprising, there are some unexpected developments in the Enzo-Laura relationship that will prove crucial to the survival of the Ferrari company.
You could regard Michael Mann’s new film as the prequel to the well-received 2019 Ford v Ferrari, set 6 years later, but it turns out to be much more than that. Laura Ferrari was a very private person and that privacy gets regularly revealed when she takes a stray shot at Ferrari after he returns from a weekend with Lina. Laura also makes solo visits to their son’s grave, then haggles with Enzo over the ownership of the company as he tries to negotiate a cover deal with the Ford Corporation to entice Fiat to come to his rescue. Cruz gives a strong performance as a plain-Jane who seems every bit as tough as her womanizing husband. To his credit, Adam Driver, whose makeup job is very convincing, does not sport a faux Italian accent as he did in The House of Gucci. His Ferrari has a tough, no-nonsense exterior that demands obeisance from all his staff. I felt that Shailene Woodley often seemed out of her element as Enzo’s mistress. Perhaps the real Lina Lardi was overwhelmed by the Ferrari persona and seemed clearly needy, having a young child and no other obvious source of support.
The highlight of Ferrari is the Mille Miglia endurance race and, like the other racing scenes, this is where this film really shines. Kudos go to the main drivers as portrayed by Leone, O’Connell and a surprising Patrick Dempsey and to Erik Messerschmidt’s (Mank) camera crew give you a feel for what it is like to be behind the wheel of a car traveling at high speed through city and countryside where danger lurks on every curve. Car enthusiasts will eat this one up as numerous insider views of the Italian auto industry are provided. This film that has already generated considerable Oscar talk and Driver will likely again be in the running for a best actor statuette. Highly recommended.
Ferrari is now screening in theaters
- Rating Certificate: R (for some violent content/graphic images, sexual content and language.)
- Studios & Distributors: Forward Pass | Storyteller Productions | Iervolino & Lady Bacardi Entertainment | Esme Grace Media/COIL | Ketchup Entertainment | Red Sea Film Fund | STX Entertainment
- Countries: United States | United Kingdom | Italy | China
- Language: English
- Run Time: 130 Mins.
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
- Director: Michael Mann
- Written By: Troy Kennedy Martin | Brock Yates
- Release Date: 31 December 2023