In theaters December 25, 2023.
“Racing is a great mania to which one must sacrifice everything, without reticence, without hesitation.” - Enzo Ferrari
Michael Mann is among a group of directors that only pops up every few years. When his latest, Ferrari, debuts in theaters this Christmas it will be his first directorial effort since 2015’s Blackhat. Say what you will about his films, I believe he is a phenomenal storyteller with the occasional hit or miss. And in my opinion his so-called misses have the potential to gain positive attention over time. Is Blackhat impossibly silly? Sure. But I would argue if anything, suspension of disbelief required, that it is simple in execution certainly but undeniably entertaining.
Mann’s ability to capture realistic, entertaining and oftentimes brutal violence is apparent throughout most of his films. Public Enemies, Miami Vice and the masterful Collateral all provide glorious examples of his prowess with action sequences. I could talk ad nauseam about how extraordinary HEAT is, so I’ll save that for another time. I guess my point is that his movies come out entirely too infrequently. Which is why Ferrari was so high on my list of anticipated movies for the year and why it’s one of my biggest disappointments of 2023 as well.
I want to be perfectly clear, Ferrari is in no way an awful film. It has a lot to admire with decent racing sequences and even better intimate moments particularly between Adam Driver’s Enzo Ferrari and his grief stricken wife Laura brilliantly brought back to life by Penélope Cruz. Unfortunately beyond these few shining features it feels held back at times. In a movie that has every reason to exceed expectations it falls short one time too many. Maybe my expectations were too high, and I guess that’s my problem. I would say for a movie I was hoping to be wowed by it left me appreciative but a bit indifferent as well.
Let’s talk about the positives first. The acting is top tier, especially the film’s two leads Adam Driver and Penélope Cruz. In every scene together they create a kind of palpable tension that could be cut with a knife. There is a love there, but it has been doused with an unimaginable amount of loss and grief that keeps them at odds with one another in every encounter. Driver as Enzo Ferrari is wonderful to watch, but it’s the tenacity and anger of Cruz’s Laura that carries the emotional heft of so much tragedy and complexity that makes this story worthy of attention. She is an absolute force to be reckoned with as a woman built up with so much misplaced rage manifested from immense heartache and when she is pushed to her breaking point it is a storm of intensity.
To use a driving reference, the film feels stuck in a lower gear trying desperately to shift into a higher rpm and it never quite gets there. It has the shell of a gorgeous Italian race car with the engine of a Vespa. The story leaves a lot to be desired as it rarely rises above the excellent performances. The racing sequences have glimmering moments of adrenaline fueled tension but can oftentimes drag becoming nothing more than scenes with beautiful automobiles going really fast.
It has all the appearances of something Godfather-like with weighty performances and relentless racing scenes and shockingly graphic crashes but it just never lives up to such lofty goals. Word leaked early that the intensity of the crash sequences were unprecedented and that was just an outright exaggeration if I’ve ever heard one. Maybe the reality of the crashes are so close to what it would actually look like that it comes off as campy or cheesy. Then again maybe the effects are seriously lacking and because of this it leaves what are supposed to be the most intense moments of the film lacking simply because it’s difficult to take them seriously. Admittedly I laughed when the crash sequences happened as clearly non-human CGI figures were tossed hundreds of feet through the air only to land horribly mutilated and still looking… make-believe.
In the end, Ferrari is decent enough with so much wasted potential that could have made it something truly special. The performances are its greatest strength but are often overshadowed by lackluster racing scenes. In a movie that pushes the racing scenes so hard, it’s telling when the most intimate moments are the best parts of it. Unfortunately the hype was too much to overcome as Ferrari stays stuck in first gear.
Rated R For: some violent content/graphic images, sexual content and language
Runtime: 130 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Starring: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Derek Hill
Directed By: Michael Mann
Out of 10
Story: 7/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 7
Buy to Own: No
Check out the trailer below: