Ferrari: pride comes before a fall

A racing film stuck in neutral

Film review of Ferrari – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Michael Mann is a director who has been held in high acclaim. While he may not be a household name like Spielberg and Scorsese, or have the vast filmographies of directors like Ridley Scott or Oliver Stone, Mann has delivered some of the best American movies of the last 40 years. Films like Heat, Collateral, The Insider, Ali, and The Last of the Mohicans have positioned Mann as a director who can take time with his projects. After an eight-year-old hiatus, he returns with a biopic about Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver).

The film opens in 1957, a decade after Ferrari’s factory began producing its line of road cars, and the business could be doing better financially. Enzo only makes road cars to bankroll the Ferrari racing team. But, having sold less than a hundred cars in the past year, the pressure is on to either win big and sell more cars or look externally to a company like Ford or Fiat to provide additional funding.

A string of bad luck, including the passing of his son Dino, the death of a test driver, the crumbling of his marriage to Laura (Penélope Cruz), and the stresses of concealing his secret mistress (Shailene Woodley) and their son place further pressure on the automotive pioneer. With his world beginning to crumble, Enzo puts all his efforts and hopes into winning the 1957 Mille Miglia, an auto race between Brescia and Rome held on a course made up entirely of public roads around Italy.

Once you get past the lopsided writing and inconsistent tone, there is some genuine cinematic gold.

Plenty of fun could be poked at a car movie featuring leads with Driver and Cruz surnames, but the joke might be on the audience. Unfortunately, the Ferrari movie struggles to shift into gear for a racing film with such a talented team both in front of and behind the camera. With the Ferrari label, this road trip is a surprisingly slow and sombre affair that’s far less about cars and more about a man whose entire world is on the brink of collapse.

The experience is less than a smooth ride, with jumpy scene transitions and uneven pacing, finishing abruptly and struggling to give closure to its numerous story threads. The film is almost as inconsistent as Shailene Woodley’s Franco-Italian accent. This talented actress needed more help from an accent coach for this project. This inconsistency can also be said of the computer-generated effects, particularly the harrowing crash undercut and the opening black-and-white footage interspersed with archival footage that’s very noticeably fake.

Ferrari delivers some fantastic performances, frenetic racing, and a story about ego and hubris that’s mature and faithful to its source.

However, once you get past the lopsided writing and inconsistent tone, there is some genuine cinematic gold.

Adam Driver is more reserved in his role, despite a few moments when he looks to inspire his drivers, leaving Penélope Cruz to get in the driver’s seat and steal the show. She elevates middling material into a standout performance filled with grief, anger, sadness, betrayal, and poise. The Academy Award-winning actress wonderfully navigates playing the wife of a man lost to ego, selfish ambition and adultery.

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann's Ferrari movie

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari NEON

Mann’s direction also shines during the film’s racing scenes, which are few and far between. Still, these portions are energetic when they occur, injecting the film with the fuel to keep going with immersive sound design and rapid editing.

To portray Enzo Ferrari at a particular moment of personal and professional crisis, Mann seeks to show multiple angles and doesn’t entirely succeed in them all. Ferrari is a sturdy but uneven biopic that struggles to kick into gear fully. However, it delivers some fantastic performances, frenetic racing, and a story about ego and hubris that’s mature and faithful to its source.

Explosion in Michael Mann's Ferrari movie

Reel Dialogue: Is it bad to push for greatness?

To inject yet another car pun, one thing that can be said about Enzo Ferrari is that he was a driven man. He was focused on perfection and unwilling to lose or compromise. He was accustomed to complete control. But when his life began to unravel, he didn’t take any responsibility, instead pointing the finger of blame at others. He was blinded by his pride and hubris; his ego would be his downfall and cause the destruction of many lives.

Do you try to control your own life?

While it is not sinful to have goals or aims in life, it can become sinful when these targets come at the expense of others’ wellbeing. If we believe we are the only ones who matter and are filled with pride and self-righteousness, we damage others and ourselves. The Bible teaches that we cannot trust pridefully in our abilities to succeed, but that we must humble ourselves before God, the sovereign Lord over our lives and bestower of true blessing. Do you try to control your own life? Or have you humbly submitted your life to God and trusted Him to provide?

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:12

If you would like to discuss the topics of the Ferrari movie and God, reach out to Third Space. Russ and the team would love to chat with you about this and more.

Michael Walsh writes for City Bible Forum’s Reel Dialogue. This review first appeared on Third Space and is republished with permission. Click to read more film articles on Eternity.

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