Baseball pitchers dream of throwing a perfect game; ice skaters aim to score a perfect 10; and race-car drivers repeatedly circle the track chasing that elusive perfect lap. What constitutes a perfect lap, you ask? Allow Christian Bale to break it down for you in an exclusive clip from Ford v Ferrari, James Mangold’s period racing drama, set against the backdrop of the 1966 Le Mans championship, when two racing titans went head-to-head over the course of 24 long hours. And not just the titular corporate titans; that particular match saw engineer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British racer Ken Miles (Bale) pitting the unproven Ford GT40 against a formidable fleet of Ferrari drivers.
Even though a trophy is his employer’s ultimate goal, Miles has his eyes on an even more significant victory: achieving that single perfect lap. “Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap,” he tells his young son, Peter (Noah Jupe), at twilight after a long day of making pre-Le Mans trial runs. “No mistakes; every gear change, every corner perfect. ... Most people don’t even know it’s out there, but it is.” No spoilers here, but we can say that Miles — who would have celebrated his 101st birthday today, Nov. 1 — drives a pretty perfect race. (Watch the clip above.)
This quiet moment between father and son is the calm before the nearly hour-long racing sequence that provides the film’s thrilling climax. When Ford v Ferrari premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, we noted that it was destined to become a classic “dad movie” in the tradition of Hoosiers and Rudy. Scenes like this showcase why, as Mangold deftly balances intimate character beats with edge-of-your-seat competition.
“For me, the real framework of the movie were these relationships,” the director remarked at the TIFF press conference. “Because I’m not an incredibly obsessive car guy, my way into the movie was knowing the way I’ve experienced the relationships I’ve had with people making a movie. It really did speak to the act of getting a movie made.” For some audiences — looking at you, Dad — Ford v Ferrari will be a perfect movie.
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