Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, December 13, 2019, 11:31 a.m.
In some ways, Ford v. Ferrari takes away my historical edge.
I knew why Ken Miles (and the invisible Denny Hulme) lost the 24 Hour of Le Mans in 1966. I was only eight years old, but I remember the revolutionary satellite coverage on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. That’s how big it was, back before it could be followed around the clock via Twitter feed or live streaming on YouTube.
I knew all about Carroll Shelby, from his Cobras, to his heart transplant, to his Texas chili mix.
I watch lots of movies, most of them more than 30 years old. I’m not sure, but I think the last movie I saw in a theater was Captain America: The First Avenger, which I saw because it was playing and I had some time to kill, which was the usual reason I saw a movie back when my life had lots of long layovers and delayed flights in it.
Come to think of it, I think I also saw a movie that was about a maverick soccer coach before I went to Landrum to play and sing some songs at a place I don’t remember any more about than the soccer movie. Apparently it was called Playing for Keeps and the world forgot all about it, too.
I’m in the old guy’s “it’ll be on TV eventually” stage of resignation. It’s all a blur. Deep down, I think Tom Hanks is just a continuation of James Stewart. Damn it to hell. A movie costs a lot, even at 1:20 p.m. on a Thursday.
I really wanted to see Ford v. Ferrari, though. The trick was to find the time before it stopped playing in nearby theaters.
First of all, I have loved automobile racing for my entire life. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Graham Hill won the 1966 Indianapolis 500 the same year of the Ford GT breakthrough at Le Mans. Coincidentally, it was also the day I got into my first fight. For a third of my life, I made a living writing about NASCAR. Twenty years of NASCAR obsession cost me much in terms of knowledge of the greater world, even the greater automobile racing world.
Most racing movies stink. I watch ’em anyway, but they stink.
This one didn’t. Rush, the Formula One movie about James Hunt and Niki Lauda, didn’t, either, but Ford v. Ferrari was better. No one was miscast. Matt Damon made a fine Shelby, and Christian Bale made a fine Miles. Josh Lucas was a great example of what’s wrong with the world in a suit. Jon Bernthal made a believable young Lee Iacocca, and Tracy Letts was a perfectly obstinate Henry Ford II.
Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles and Noah Jupe as the couple’s young son were perfect. I doubt I was the only patron who immediately did a search on “what happened to Peter Miles?” as soon as the flick was over.
I guess the test of a racing movie is whether or not people who don’t love racing will enjoy it. This one passes that test, though I’m hardly one to decide. If I was a judge, I’d have to recuse myself. If The Big Wheel came up on TCM in the next 15 minutes, I’d watch it.
Hollywood is going to do with a story what is its specialty. Hollywood seldom lets the facts get in the way. I had a few quibbles. If Miles ever strapped himself into his Ford GT when he jumped into the car for the old “Le Mans start,” I didn’t see it. In the movie, Miles was driving another GT-40 when he crashed and died. In reality, it was an experimental J-Car that was never raced.
I always quibble, as when the Chicago Cubs didn’t get a chance to bat when Roy Hobbs hit the famed home run in The Natural.
I hate to tell you folks, but the Cubbies still got to bat.
Those little qualms are minor, and, besides, there is only one surviving J-Car in existence.
It’s the best racing movie ever made. It’s better than Rush, better than Grand Prix, better than Winning, better than Days of Thunder, better than Le Mans and better than The Last American Hero.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.
My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.