Biography Drama

Review: ‘Ferrari’ is a High-Performance Biopic that Strikes a Winning Balance Between Form and Function

December 22, 2023Ben MK

When it comes to cars, like any other consumer product, brand recognition is everything. And just like high-end brands such as Apple, Tiffany and Co., and Burberry, there are some car manufacturers whose names have become synonymous with automotive excellence. Whether it's the American-built toughness of Ford, the Japanese engineering of Toyota, or the Italian design of Maserati, these are brands that have become icons of their industry. And with Ferrari, director Michael Mann sets out to tell the real-life story behind one of those iconic names, in this gripping biopic of Enzo Ferrari, a man whose ambition and vision changed the sport of automotive racing forever.

The year is 1957, a decade after former race car driver Enzo (Adam Driver) and his wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), founded Ferrari, and while the company has been putting up a brave public front, things aren't quite as copacetic behind the scenes. With Ferrari in financial dire straits, Enzo has been feeling increasing pressure to form a business partnership with the likes of Ford or Fiat. And while doing so would certainly prove to be a sound business decision, for Enzo, the relinquishing of total control over his company is something he would never willingly do. It's a situation that's also mirrored by Enzo's messy personal life, with his marriage to Laura having been reduced to little more than a formal arrangement and his 12-year-long affair with his mistress Lina (Shailene Woodley) resulting in an illegitimate son Laura has no idea about. And with Enzo and Laura's own 24-year-old son, Dino, having died of a sudden illness some years earlier, Enzo is adamant about keeping it that way.

Enter Alfonso de Portago (Gabriel Leone), an up-and-coming Spanish racer who has come to Italy with aspirations of driving for Enzo. Getting his wish after one of Enzo's top drivers perishes in a freak accident on the test track, Alfonso quickly ascends through the ranks of Ferrari's racing elite, joining such highly respected names as American race car driver Piero Taruffi (Patrick Dempsey) on Enzo's handpicked, five-man team to race at the legendary Mille Miglia. However, when tragedy strikes at the 31st installment of the world-famous race, the negative public sentiment and devastating financial blowback threaten to destroy both Enzo and the company he built with his own two hands. Will Ferrari be able to survive one of the most shocking accidents in car racing history? And what will happen when Laura finds out about Enzo's deep, dark secret and his family life with Lina?

Written by Troy Kennedy Martin and Brock Yates, Ferrari is pure precision filmmaking that strikes a winning balance between form and function, earning a top spot in Mann's impressive filmography alongside the likes of such modern cinematic classics as Heat, Collateral and The Last of the Mohicans. It's the movie's stellar cast, however, that really make it the compelling, high-performance drama that it is. Whether it's Driver, who's as commanding as ever behind the wheel of his latest leading role, or Cruz, who proves to be the high-octane fuel that propels the film to the finish line, the acting is top-gear through and through. And as far as year-end theatrical releases are concerned, moviegoers couldn't ask for a better last-minute Christmas present.

A must-see for racing fans, automotive aficionados and cinephiles alike, the result is as well-crafted and as aesthetically pleasing as biopics get. And in a year when Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer has been dominating the box office conversation, that's nothing short of high praise indeed. Of course, it's Adam Driver fans who will get the most mileage out of Ferrari. And just as the movie will go down as one of Mann's greatest directorial achievements, so too does Driver's portrayal belong in the winner's circle come awards season.

Ferrari releases December 25th, 2023 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for some violent content/graphic images, sexual content and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 4 min.

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