Review Text CominStill a couple of days to go for the mega weekend which brings a plethora of new releases, and I am still doing some cleanup work from my watchlist. With that, I finished watching the new English film Ferrari directed by Michael Mann and starring Adam Driver. The year 2023 was a prolific year which saw the clash of some of the top directors right from Christopher Nolan to Ridley Scott and Greta Gerwig in the mix. But amongst these, the one film that the Formula One racing fans were eagerly anticipating was Ferrari, a biopic on the founder of the red metal, Enzo Ferrari.
There was a period when my fascination for Formula One was at its peak when Michael Schumacher was at the helm of it and in ‘red’ hot form. And considering that he was racing in a red metal called Ferrari, that moment was my first brush with the automobile company. Through one championship after another, I was a loyal Ferrari supporter up until the retirement of the legend that made me distance myself from the sport. Yet, the fascination for speed which was synonymous to the Red Machine had left its residue behind me. So when I did get to know about Michael Mann(yes, the director of Heat) helming a film on Enzo Ferrari, I was all game for it. Here, I must admit that the perks of delaying a review can be detrimental to gauging the film on what it is versus what others think about it. This essentially meant that word of mouth was not prolific while tending to be positive which was a minor setback for me in terms of purely gauging the film for what it stood for. After much deliberation, I decided to venture into the world of Ferrari while having to manage my expectations, does it manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on a novel, Ferrari traces a phase in the life of automobile mogul Enzo Ferrari who is having to manage a sinking automobile company while dealing with his interpersonal relationships with his wife and mistress. The story here is more in the space of the latter with the protagonist facing issues in his personal life than the startup journey of the red machine. And this may well have been a reason for people to have underappreciated this drama which may have promised a ‘fast lane’ with its title but was a ‘slow’ buildup of external factors in the life of the protagonist. So instantly, I had to shed my preconceived notion about the narrative and surrender to the vision of the filmmaker. And when I did that, the screenplay standing a 130 minutes did account for a solid watch.
The drama begins with the introduction of the protagonist who is on the verge of a huge financial loss being created by his company Ferrari while also discreetly having an affair with his mistress oblivious to his wife who also owns a fair share of the stakes in the company. He couple have been mourning the loss of their son while their marriage is slowly disintegrating with each passing day. The conflict in the tale is simple of the protagonist having to balance his personal and professional life which in a way are connected, and ensure that he wriggles out of a difficult situation himself. The entire dynamics of the setting is interesting given that everything is interlinked with each other that automatically heightens the stakes in the drama.
The characterization of the protagonist is an interesting topic given the excessive discussions that we have had with respect to toxic masculinity. The protagonist is an understated individuals who holds much of his emotions to himself while only briefly evoking them to get his job done with people around him. He can be termed as an opportunist and someone who is cheating on his wife but the flip side to the argument is that there is a sense of remorse that is buried inside him amidst his ‘image’ managing skills. Also, discounting his loyalty towards both his partners, his loyalty towards his brand remains stoic and unshakable while willing to bet on a race to salvage the finances of his entire company without willing to sell-off his stake to his industry rivals or talking his wife into a situation that she doesn’t encash the cheque which would make his company bankrupt. The ability of the protagonist to stop at nothing is also reflective on his drivers, a couple of whom met with their worst fate, while another was oblivious of his. Yet, it can be safely said that his street smart attitude towards everyone in his life was directly proportional to Ferrari finding its voice again(despite everything lost along the way including people).
Having said that, my criticism for the drama is also due to its narrative heavily drifting only towards the personal life of the protagonist while the entrepreneur in me wished to explore the other side of the world too. To be fair, there was a period of intense speed and action that lead to a tragedy but I wished a little more of that throughout the narrative. Yet, from the narrative standpoint, the interpersonal and professional relationships of the protagonist did account for a solid watch despite a slightly underwhelming final act.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and quite well in sync with the brooding and cerebral nature of the drama. The BGM is wonderful tactfully integrated the sound of the machine effectively across the storyboard. The cinematography is stupendous particularly the frames capturing the rat race which were showcased for an exhilarating big screen experience. The editing is decent. Director Michael Mann does a stunning job with the direction, going against the tide and serving a cerebral narrative. But his balance in defining the character of the protagonist was simply stupendous that automatically caters to the drama being a solid watch.
The performances are wonderful to witness here. Gabriel Leone as Portago and Patrick Dempsey as Piero have their moments to shine. Shailene Woodley as Lina is decent but I wish her character had a little more meat to it as opposed to being one-note. Penelope Cruz as Laura is emaculate in a character that is unassuming and layered. She is terrific to watch here. Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari is in top form so much so that I could look past his persona and see more of the owner of the Red Machine. He was brilliantly understated and quite nuanced in his act.
Ferrari is a measured take on the interpersonal and professional complications in the fleeting life phase of the Red Machine Owner that makes for a solid watch.