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The ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Exit Survey

The Ringer staff divulges its takes on cool cars, the Matt Damon–Christian Bale bromance, and reaching Dad Nirvana

20th Century Fox/Ringer illustration

Matt Damon and Christian Bale team up in the ’60s to figure out a way to build an American car that can beat those Italian jerks over at Ferrari—it’s Dad Fast & Furious. Now that Ford v Ferrari has hit theaters, the Ringer staff is here to talk cars, choose between Damon and Bale, and put a few movies into the Dad Movie Hall of Fame.


1. What is your tweet-length review of Ford v Ferrari?

Miles Surrey: Finally, a movie coming out in the year 2019 that I can talk about with my dad.

Michael Baumann: A good movie that would’ve kicked wholesale ass had it come out 10 years ago, not only before Rush but back when we were still into the Important Genius Of Difficult Men.

Robert Mays:

Rob Harvilla: Cars: fast. Men: manly. Suits: duh. Computers: nah. America: redeemed. Dads: dads! Expectations: met.

Megan Schuster: Me during Matt Damon’s dialogue at the beginning of the movie ...

… versus me when he repeats it at the end:

Mose Bergmann: Twenty years ago, my father left for a pack of cigarettes. Friday night, he came back with two packs and a pair of tickets to Ford v Ferrari. Then he said, “Let’s fucking ride.”

2. What was the best moment of the movie?

Bergmann: Basic answer, but it’s the races—all of them.

Baumann: When Carroll Shelby slings Henry Ford II around in the GT40 and reduces him to tears. It was the stinger in the first trailer, but even having seen it a billion times already I did not enjoy it any less in the theater.

Schuster: There are so, so many. My honorable mention is the Grown Man Fight that Shelby and Ken Miles have in the middle of the goddamn day, where a loaf of Wonder Bread is used as a weapon and Shelby deploys some move called the “Llama Bite?” (Trademark pending, I assume.)

But my real favorite is the chunk of the movie that starts with Miles and Shelby’s conversation about how Shelby plans to deal with the suits coming to the garage the following day (he has a plan, but it’s “risky”) through the moment he locks Josh Lucas’s character in his office and essentially kidnaps Henry Ford II. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as loud in a theater as I did when I realized Shelby’s whole plan was literally locking a Ford executive in a glorified closet.

Mays: Matt Damon’s ripping around the test track as the Deuce nearly deuced his suit. The whole theater was loving it, and it also served as a pretty useful reminder that normal people have no idea what it’s like to climb into a race car.

Surrey: All the racing scenes were awesome, but I loved the surprisingly tender exchange between Carroll Shelby and Henry Ford II in the GT40. In the trailer, the moment is played for laughs—and it’s undeniably funny to see Ford nearly shit himself when the car’s going super fast—but it morphs into something genuinely touching when Ford bursts into tears and says that he regrets that his father wasn’t alive to see this happen. There’s plenty left unsaid about Ford’s relationship with his legendary dad, but you can feel the overwhelming burden of expectations and insecurity the moment Shelby hits the brakes.

Harvilla: Matt Damon’s bonking Christian Bale on the head with a loaf of Wonder Bread is what you call a rich text.

3. What was your least favorite part of the film?

Harvilla: When I bought the ticket online and learned that the film was two and a half hours long; between this and The Irishman, I have officially spent half of 2019 in a theater.

Baumann: We really didn’t need Josh Lucas’s character at all, did we? Like, this movie was longer than the actual 24 Hours of Le Mans because we spent 40 percent of the movie fighting the same battle over and over with a dude whose whole purpose was to be a giant weenie.

Surrey: Josh Lucas was way too over the top as the Basic Corporate Ogre antagonist—I half expected him to grow a mustache and twirl it while boasting about profit margins by the time we got to Le Mans.

Mays: The bits of exposition masked as exclamation from Bale’s kid and others. I get that it’s tough to smoothly explain the more esoteric elements of a niche world like auto racing, but that always drives me bonkers.

Schuster: I’m sorry, but did Mollie have to be written as such a classic nagging housewife? Her character was great at times in the movie, but the hysterical speeding scene and the IRS stuff was a little much. Give Mollie more time sitting in a chair and watching her husband get the stuffing beaten out of him, and less of the Stone Age dialogue.

Bergmann: Caitriona Balfe plays the concerned-but-cool-wife archetype to a T. She’s good, but I wish her character was given slightly more to do than aggressively dote on her beau. Yeah, we get that your husband is stressed about the car and that you drove all the way to the hangar with two beers to cheer him up, but why are you crying?

That or Josh Lucas’s total larceny of Lee Pace’s whole swagger in Halt and Catch Fire.

4. Pick one, Part 1: Matt Damon or Christian Bale

20th Century Fox

Surrey: Bale. Let the man use his real accent in more movies!

Schuster: Look, Matt Damon is great. He’s an amazing actor, and his performance was wonderful and nuanced in this movie. But holy hell, can Christian Bale act. There are so many scenes in this movie when Miles is driving, and though he doesn’t say anything and there’s no one else in the car with him, you know exactly how he’s feeling. He does it during Le Mans when he decides to slow down to tie with the other Fords, and he does it at the end right before his brakes go out. Shea Serrano wrote a bit about Bale’s skill in this area last week, and it was so pronounced here. Not to mention—he can get jokes off, too! Bale definitely wins this movie.

Mays: In this movie, Bale. Ford v Ferrari is a testament to Damon’s Movie Star credentials. His presence alone is enough to carry it, like Brad Pitt in Moneyball. But Bale’s best roles often come when he’s allowed to play second fiddle and take some weird swings as a result. And that’s exactly what you get here.

Baumann: Damon. Bale’s starting to lose me a little because while he’s one of the Great Actors Of His Generation, he’s just so fucking showy. My man hasn’t taken it down below an eight since Reign of Fire. Could Damon have done Dick Cheney in Vice or Irving in American Hustle? Probably not, but he’s plenty capable of doing 90 percent of Bale’s Hyper-Prestige White Man Acting while maintaining a sense of fun Bale just can’t seem to access, and movies are supposed to be fun.

Harvilla: Going Damon here as he gets the manly semi-emotive closing scene, but it is quite jarring to recall that this time last year Bale was playing Dick Cheney.

Bergmann: It’s almost too close to call. Comparing their cumulative careers is essentially a wash, so in situations such as these, the deciding factor is “Who Makes Me Laugh on Talk Shows?” Considering this deciding factor, I go Damon, no doubt.

5. What was the best car in this movie?

Mays: As someone who could not care less about cars, it’s amazing how much I enjoyed this movie. I’ll go with whatever Damon was cruising around in. Which was a Shelby Cobra? Maybe? I dunno. I do know that at one point I thought, “Man, being able to just make yourself a ridiculously cool car seems nice.”

Schuster: No shots at the GT40, but give me one of those red Ferraris 10 times out of 10 (and then teach me how to drive stick).

Harvilla: The wood-paneled station wagon.

Surrey: My uncle has a 2006 Ford GT with a license plate that literally says “MURKKA” (this is not a joke), so I have to go with the OG GT40.

Baumann: Clearly the best car was the GT40, but I was quite fond of the little Porsche 356 Shelby drove home from the doctor’s office at the beginning of the movie.

Bergmann: I have never in my life owned a car, so maybe this question isn’t for me. The best one, I guess, was the loudest and fastest one that didn’t blow up?

6. Which That Guy should have been in this movie?

Mays: John Hawkes in a jumpsuit, covered in motor oil, as one of the other mechanics in the garage is just too easy.

Surrey: There should always be room in a film for Shea Whigham.

Harvilla: My favorite line was “It’s about right now the uninitiated have a tendency to soil themselves,” and the guy who said it did a pretty good job, but I’d definitely remember the character’s name if Sam Elliott had played him.

Baumann: This movie spent so much time on Josh Lucas that there was no time for even a mention of the second-most interesting subplot of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was 1964 Formula 1 world champion John Surtees’s quitting the night before the race after he got yanked from the first stint in the lead Ferrari in favor of the chairman of Fiat’s nephew. We had so many passing off-screen mentions of auto racing legends in this movie and we couldn’t get some British That Guy—Tobias Menzies? Harry Lloyd?—in for a day to play Surtees?

Bergmann: This movie thankfully has plenty of That Guys scattered about, but I feel I didn’t see Christopher Abbott in this movie. He’s absolutely in this movie, you can’t convince me otherwise. I didn’t see him, but I know he’s there.

7. What is your version of the “7,000 RPM” moment?

Baumann: Whenever I’m watching an auto racing movie and we get a Days of Thunder–style close-up shot of a driver who’s clearly traveling at top speed downshifting on a straightaway to pass another car that’s also going at top speed. No matter the movie’s historical pretensions, we’ve got to have that shot.

Surrey: When I eventually try the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich.

Mays: As a 30-something who doesn’t drive and doesn’t enjoy leaving the ground if it’s not in a plane, the options are limited. I’ll say skiing down a mountain I’m probably not good enough to ski. That always provides the sort of adrenaline boost you can’t usually get without breaking the law.

Harvilla: When I jump off a cliff and fire an Ancient Arrow at a Guardian in midair slo-mo in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Bergmann: Sitting down on the couch, perfect posture—the proper slump—a tub of hummus sits on the table. You’ve got chips, plenty of them. Flavorful, but not so much as to distract from the star of the show. You take a chip, and scoop the dip. You’re too cautious this time, not enough hummus. Next time you overcorrect, and have like two tablespoons of dip on the chip. Too much. It’s fine, you got this, you’ve done this before. The process continues, and eventually you find that groove. That special, ethereal place. The perfect ratio of dip-to-chip. There’s nothing quite like it.

8. Pick one, Part 2: Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles or Dom Toretto and Brian O’Conner

Surrey: Wow. This is Sophie’s choice for car lovers. Shelby and Miles were real people who made an indelible mark on history; Dom and Brian welcomed themselves into our lives with nitrous and bottomless Coronas. I reserve the right to withhold my decision until the Fast & Furious franchise heads to space—in which case, I choose Dom and Brian.

Mays: Dom and Brian. Maybe I missed it, but I’m pretty sure Ken never flew a GT40 between a couple of skyscrapers. At one point, Carroll—even if he does it with a wink—encourages a customer not to drag race. That guy may have won Le Mans, but he sure as hell doesn’t live his life a quarter mile at a time. Salud, mi familia.

Schuster: Carroll and Ken, mainly because I think you could very easily drop them into Dom and Brian’s cars without any major problems, but I don’t believe the inverse would work at all.

Bergmann: All respect to the driving team that won A RACE in THE SIXTIES, but give me the guys who can outdrive you on land, sand, jungle, ice, sea, the sky, and probably space.

Harvilla: Dom’s “you never had your car” speech in The Fast and the Furious about granny-shifting and whatnot is my favorite Pedantic Car Jargon scene in a movie, so.

Baumann: Instead of answering this question, I’m going to point out that while the last 20 minutes or so of Ford v Ferrari were about Carroll Shelby struggling to deal with building the car that killed his buddy, I’d be interested in a movie that addresses how the genius engineers of the 1960s and 1970s routinely built cars that killed their racing driver buddies and either didn’t seem to give a damn or tried so hard not to give a damn that it completely robbed them of their humanity. So ask me again when they make the Frank Williams–Piers Courage biopic.

20th Century Fox

9. Rank your favorite Dad Movies.

Mays:

  1. Die Hard
  2. Goodfellas
  3. Heat
  4. Tombstone
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark

(Aside from the first two, these could be in any order, and this ranking could include 50 more movies. It’s cruel to even ask me to do this.)

Schuster:

  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. Ford v Ferrari
  3. Dunkirk
  4. Triple Frontier
  5. Argo

Harvilla: As a teenager, my weekend curfew somehow coincided exactly with the endless final car chase in The Blues Brothers airing on cable, and so consequently my dad and I watched it together about 10,000 times. So put Unforgiven at no. 10 and The Blues Brothers at 1-9.

Bergmann:

  1. Master and Commander
  2. Field of Dreams
  3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  4. Ford v Ferrari
  5. Birdman

Surrey:

  1. Indiana Jones (except Crystal Skull, of course)
  2. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II
  3. Goodfellas
  4. Heat
  5. Casino Royale
  6. First Man
  7. Die Hard
  8. Rocky
  9. The Fugitive
  10. Predator
  11. The Brian Koppelman Cinematic Universe

… how much longer would you like me to go?

Baumann:

  1. The Hunt for Red October
  2. The Right Stuff
  3. Thirteen Days
  4. The Boys From Brazil
  5. The Manchurian Candidate

I went to see Ford v Ferrari on Saturday afternoon in a suburban Michigan movie theater, and it was the most Dad crowd I’ve ever seen in a theater. I looked down after the movie, and a cellphone holster and utility knife had spontaneously grown out of my belt.