This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY ALEX GILSTON OCTOBER 11, 2023
Enzo Ferrari defined a generation of car racing and making. In Michael Mann’s Ferrari his life, accomplishments, and relationships are dissected and examined through a microscopic lens. Where it might lack focus it makes up for in its horsepower-driven story.
It’s 1957 and Enzo Ferrari’s (Adam Driver) motorcar business is in jeopardy. None of his racers are placing in good positions, and Ferrari is haemorrhaging money. In a last ditch effort to turn things around he puts all of his focus on the Mille Miglia, a famous Italian 1000 mile road race, to show off what his cars can really do. In the background, tensions are bubbling in his private life as his wife Laura Ferrari (Penélope Cruz) is close to finding out about his mistress Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley).
Ferrari, like the cars in question, goes at a breakneck pace. It speeds through the year it is set in, only pit-stopping to focus on the human drama between Enzo Ferrari and the people around him, and that is where Ferrari really shines. All of the man-fuelled clinically shot racing sequences could never compare to Adam Driver and Penélope Cruz acting opposite one another.
Troy Kennedy Martin - who wrote the screenplay - angles Enzo Ferrari as an Icarus type figure. He’s a man on the edge and his intricately built up, busy life is at threat of falling in on him. As is generally the case for powerful men though even though his life does topple over he finds his feet almost instantly. Something made obvious by the fact that Ferrari is one of the most famous and popular car brands in the world.
The final act is centred around the Mille Miglia road race. The tension slowly builds as the race goes on and they drive across luscious landscapes and built up towns. Everything comes to a head in one of the most brutally realistic tragedies that has been put to film in recent memory. Mann doesn’t shy away from the dangers that surround motorcar racing as the camera stays firmly put in the view of the crash.
Adam Driver is having a jolly time resurrecting his Italian accent from House of Gucci in Ferrari. His performance is sweeping and it is almost like he treats Enzo’s brain as a car engine, just rumbling away keeping him afloat. Ferrari hangs on Penélope Cruz’s insane turn as Enzo Ferrari’s wife Laura. A woman at the end of her tether, tired of being messed around by her husband. Her performance brings to life the famous saying “Behind every successful man is a woman”.
Ferrari is a behemoth of a film that successfully uses Enzo Ferrari’s life to tell an interesting story. If, however, there was more emphasis on the person to person interactions it might even have been an instant classic.