Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Gabriel Leone, Jack O’Connell, Patrick Dempsey
Cert: 15 (tbc)
Running time: 130 mins
Legendary Director’s Pursuit
Directed by Michael Mann and scripted by the late Troy Kennedy Martin (to whom the film is partly dedicated, alongside Sydney Pollack), Ferrari is a biopic of Enzo Ferrari, the Italian founder of both the motor racing team and the luxury sports car manufacturer. It’s based on the 1991 biography Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine by motorsport journalist Brock Yates and largely takes place in 1957.
After a short prelude establishing Ferrari’s (Adam Driver) career as a racing driver in the 1930s, the film jumps forward to 1957 to find him recruiting a hot new driver (Gabriel Leone as Alfonso de Portago) to his racing team, in the hopes that they will win the upcoming Mille Miglia race and secure financial backing that will keep his struggling company in business.
At the same time, Ferrari is dealing with a complex domestic situation, still married to Laura Ferrari (Penelope Cruz), who owns half the company and controls the purse strings, but secretly living with his long-term lover Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley), with whom he has a ten year old son, unbeknownst to Laura.
The Biographical Roadmap:
Part biopic, part sports movie and part domestic drama, the script for Ferrari does a terrific job of tying those elements together and making the audience care equally about both central storylines. In addition, Troy Kennedy Martin’s frequently inspired dialogue gives us fascinating insight into exactly who Ferrari was and the driving forces in his life – his speech to his assembled team after an early defeat is particularly illuminating in that regard.
In terms of the racing sequences, Mann doesn’t really put the pedal to the metal until the second half of the movie, but he really floors it after that, orchestrating some thrilling driving scenes and pulling off a horrific, heart-stopping central set-piece that depicts one of the defining moments in Ferrari’s career (it won’t be a surprise to those familiar with his story, but it would be churlish to reveal it here). The sequences are further heightened by Pietro Scalia’s propulsive editing and some fantastic sound design work that deserves to be experienced in the best cinema possible.
That’s not to say Mann isn’t short of a directorial flourish or two in the first half of the film either – one particular highlight involves a trio of intercut flashback sequences, all cut together to a piece of opera music that has apparently triggered each of the memories.
Adam Driver seems to be making a habit of playing famous real-life Italians, following his turn as Maurizio Gucci in 2021’s House of Gucci. He’s on typically splendid form here, nailing Ferrari’s distinctive accent and creating a complex, charismatic character, torn in several different directions.
Cruz is equally good as Laura, who’s still struggling to accept what her life has become after a painful loss – she has a moment of discovery in the film that is all the more effective for being understated, and it’s utterly devastating. Similarly, Woodley is warm and charming as the infinitely patient Lina, and there’s sterling work from a superb supporting cast that includes the likes of Patrick Dempsey and Britain’s own Jack O’Connell as Piero Taruffi and Peter Collins, two of the essential members of Ferrari’s racing team.
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