Ferrari the new Michal Mann film lays bare the soul of the car designer.
Mann has made a car movie that in a fair race with films as diverse as Rush (2013), Grand Prix (1966), Le Mans (1971), and the recent Ford v. Ferrari flaps a checkered flag to cinematic spectacle in a photo finish.
This is a Michael Mann film, you’re going to feel the collision from the conflicting emotions of the characters harder than actual car crashes.
Adam Driver immerses himself into the lead role with a solemnity that dignifies his choices good and bad. Enzo in addition to his beautiful if not morose wife Laura (Penelope Cruz, just give her another Oscar now), has an entirely different family that he visits back and forth.
Enzo’s other wife and child, from a relation forged at the end of WWII, is known to literally everyone who works for him as well as the bank executives who handle his account. Only Laura remains in the dark. Enzo and Laura’s only child died young. Shailene Woodly portrays the younger woman, Lina with assurance even though she knows she’s No. 2.
If Mann leans heavily towards the human drama rather than the din of the crowd it may be a nod to the forgotten Bobby Deerfield from 1977. Deerfield was a romantic melodrama that took place on the European racing circuit. The roar of the engines took a backseat to the love story, not unlike the machinations of Ferrari. (Being the ‘70s of course Deerfield featured movie death where the moribund looks beautiful on their deathbed.)
Ferrari speeds along better when Driver and Cruz are yelling at each other. When Ferrari switches to action be assured there are crashes that push the boundary of carnage. You know the lengthy tracking shot in Godard’s Weekend? There’s a shot Mann uses that feels cut from that bolt of cloth. Yet perhaps it’s more a meditation on the kind of demise where the participant lives in a life or death spasm.
Look up the wreck seen in the second half afterwards. Spectators at the 1957 Mille Miglia race witnessed one of the most catastrophic accidents imaginable. Mann doesn’t mince imagery.
Ferrari doesn’t run out of gas maybe because its constantly refueling its own narrative with inventive twists. It’s easy to find glamor in beauty but it’s challenging to find charm in grease.
Ferrari opens Christmas Day in theaters.