Featuring: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Patrick Dempsey, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Jack O’Connell
Genre: Docudrama, Biography, Drama, History
Director: Michael Mann
In Cinemas: Now
It is the summer of 1957. Behind the spectacle of Formula 1, ex-racer Enzo Ferrari is in crisis. Bankruptcy threatens the factory he and his wife, Laura, built from nothing ten years earlier. Their volatile marriage is battered by the loss of their son, Dino. Ferrari struggles to acknowledge another with Lina Lardi. Meanwhile, his drivers’ passions to win pushes them to the edge as they launch into the treacherous 1,000-mile race across Italy, the Mille Miglia.
There is one graphic scene towards the end of this film that is the most impactful and emotional sequence in the entire movie. It is ultimately what the film is building up to, and it doesn’t seem evident from the beginning because we are so focused on Enzo Ferrari’s (Adam Driver) thoughts and feelings about his family, which doesn’t matter to him as he tries to put it to the side by showcasing his love for his cars. When we get to the Mille Miglia scenes, there are some concerns about the special effects, and in some moments, it isn’t up to scratch, but it is tolerable for the most part. Michael Mann captures the racing sequence beautifully, with stunning cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt against the backdrop of an attractive-looking and picturesque countryside at times. The movie generally looks magnificent and often boasts incredible energy and atmosphere around the aesthetics. The many problems associated with the film come down to the narrative surrounding the complications of Ferrari’s failures, how he uses his baby, and his devotion to his cars as a distraction. The film covers nearly the span of one year, with some flashbacks between, and centres around, the relationship with his wife, Laura Ferrari, who is portrayed phenomenally by Penélope Cruz.
She truly gives a masterclass in acting here, and her performance never seems to be at fault. Her chemistry with Adam Driver works wonderfully, and they both display the perfect amount of this distant anger they are showing towards each other. But, at the same time, this love between them feels impenetrable at specific points in the movie. When acting performances like Driver and Cruz are unblemished, it is difficult to match that calibre level, and it becomes distracting whenever other characters are introduced. Adam Driver has struggled to perfect the dialect of the Italian accent, more recently in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (2021), where he plays Maurizio Gucci. In Ferrari, occasionally, his manner of speaking becomes a little distracting. His overall execution is commendable and memorable. There are side plots where the company considers selling and building up to that racing sequence. It lacked that aspect, and we don’t see much of that early on in the film, but it does become engaging when we eventually get there. Some great moments are scattered throughout the film, including a spectacular scene where Enzo gives a monologue around a table and looks right into the camera, which is extraordinary and already mentioned, the thrilling and enthralling race sequence that captures your attention when the film loses focus and capability.
Michael Mann’s look and feel of the movie are excellent, and the visuals look incredible; he captures the period well by adding his version of a Renaissance stamp to the film. The story, unfortunately, doesn’t have that connection, unlike what we have experienced before with our two main characters. All things considered, excluding the editing, it feels a little bit disorganised and rough in parts, as well as its explanation and delivery in telling the story. There is a lack of central attention given to the compelling aspects, including the love for his late son with his mistress. These can be pretty emotional scenes and explore Enzo’s expression of emotion and compassion, which makes him more compassionate and almost creates a source of empathy towards him, and the film fails to utilise this more in different scenes. Mann is known for his filmmaking skills in delivering these action-packed sequences and creating tense and engaging moments during conversations, most notably between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat (1999). Even when Mann creates that elegantly stylised realism between characters and plotlines, we are still invested in the storyline. Unfortunately, Ferrari doesn’t develop that trait when creating those characteristics. The storyline is less compelling and exciting than the more fast-paced action sequences when the evidence from Mann’s previous films shows that it can be achieved in more composed and less chaotic settings. Ferrari is one of his weaker movies in recent years; apart from the tremendous lead performances and race scenes, the film struggles to balance the various story points.