Fast Cars and Overheating Egos (Ford Vs Ferrari, 2019)

Ford_vs_Ferrari_PosterI confess…the subject of the film is not close to my heart. Cars are a utilitarian tool for me. So, I confess, the trailers did not excite me much. Damon and Bale are pretty proven variables…and Mangold has shown himself to be a skilled director.

Dramatizing the events of Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in racing and the team Ford assembled to pull it off, this got pitched as a dad movie.  Which, I mean, I guess dads will like it… but really it is a film that fans of creative innovations and risk will find appealing.

Forced to stop racing Carroll Shelby is recruited by Lee Iacocca (for Henry Ford II) to create a race car that can beat Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He reaches out to his friend, driver Ken Miles to help.  Reluctant at first, as he gave up racing to focuses on his life with his family, Miles becomes dedicated.  However, execs at Ford are not keen on having Ken as the driver, believing him too difficult.

The drama is terrific in the film, with the hard work, successes and disappointments as they fight to succeed against the odds. Damon and Bale have a very real connection as friends with a somewhat adversarial relationship.

There is some really solid cinematography on display here.  One of my favorite shots is Ken sits on the training track with his son as the night is falling. Just beautiful. I also thought the racing sequences were nicely played out.

Ford vs Ferrari is an engaging film worth watching, whether you are a dad or anyone else.

A Time For Grief, A Time for Theft (Widows, 2018)

Widows_PosterVeronica, Linda and Alice have lost their husbands in a tragedy. They discover their husbands were professional thieves. To add to their grief, they find their lives under siege, specifically from Jamal Manning.  While he is running for public office, Manning is also a local crime lord…and it so happen’s the women’s husbands died stealing from him.  He wants his money and gives them a month.

When she discovers her husband’s records of all her heists, Veronica brings the other widows together to try and complete the next heist that her husband had planned.

Widows is one of those movies that you don’t really get prepared for from the trailers.  Most Heist films are heavily focused on the planning and the heist. Widows is more interested in setting up its characters.  Everyone feels important.  We walk with them as their lives intersect. This is to the film’s benefit.  We get to really know everyone involved, both the heroes and villains of the tale.

Viola Davis gives a great performance as Veronica.  She is both vulnerable and tough as nails.  Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall play son and father of a political dynasty that are at each other throats.  Daniel Kaluuya is riveting and immensely terrifying as Manning’s right hand man.

Director Steve McQueen makes some bold choices in the film (one sequence takes place within a car, and we only hear the actors as the camera stays outside, as the focuses on the car itself). The end result is a very compelling character film that happens to feature a heist.  Managing some excellent surprises before it ends, I found Widows a very satisfying watch.

Live Fast (Baby Driver, 2017)

Baby_Driver_PosterDirector Edgar Wright is known for his playing with genres, usually via comedy.  He has tackled action films through Hot Fuzz, horror through Shaun of the Dead and Sci-Fi with The World’s End.  He was long attached to Marvel’s Ant Man (going back before anything called the Marvel Cinematic Universe existed) and instead adapted the indie comic Scott Pilgrim Vs the World.

Here Wright has made a noir heist film.  Unlike previous efforts, he plays this film straight. Baby is a skilled getaway driver.  He is working off a debt to the enigmatic Doc. Doc is hired to put together teams for heists.  Baby has met a beautiful young waitress named Deborah.  Baby’s plan is to do a final job and be done with his debt.

Baby is quiet, rarely speaking, and usually just listening to music through his headphones.  According to Doc, he suffered an injury to his ears and the music helps him focus on his purpose as a driver.

Baby finds himself forced to do another job for Doc, which ends up going bad.  Baby then must find a way  to save Deborah and himself and get out from under Doc’s thumb.

Keeping it simple, Wright builds everything around impressive car chases and catchy rock and soul music.  The characterization is light, especially in the case of the women. Deborah is the virginal love interest, while Darling is the sexy femme fatale.  John Hamm’s Buddy is the character with the most depth, but that is only because he appears to have a bit of diversity to his personality.

Though the characters are not really deep, this serves the the narrative.  We don’t need complex characters or motivations, and they would really bog the film down. Instead, Baby Driver is a fun thrill ride with cool driving stunts and a killer soundtrack.

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