Ferrari (dir. Michael Mann)

By: Adam Freed

Like the legendary racing machine of the same name, Michael Mann’s Ferrari is sleek and stylish, provocative and powerful. Mann’s mid 20th century period piece is a disarmingly engaging window into the death defyingly complex world of alluring people and beautiful cars.  The aging director, like his muse Enzo Ferrari, masterfully conducts his rpm laden symphony with a blistering pace, unfolding a captivating biopic that is layered and dynamic.  Mann (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans) slyly leans into adrenaline-inducing set pieces knowing the precise moment to mash the accelerator of audience engagement.  Just as wisely, the master filmmaker knows when to allow his film to exhale, providing space to develop the characters and world outside the cockpit of the immaculate “rossa corsa” machines of international obsession.            

To some, Ferrari will be an introductory demonstration of Michael Mann’s greatness, for audiences over forty, it acts as a powerful reminder that even in his sixth decade as a filmmaker, the blade of the dormant samurai remains deadly keen.  Laying waste to the false perception that wits are dulled with age, the octogenarian wields the power to capture pulse pounding racing from a dazzling array of angles so impressively that the audible gasps from theater goers will act as validation of Mann’s conquest.  Ferrari too is a reminder of the greatness of Penelope Cruz, who as Laura Ferrari, the aggrieved wife of Enzo, juggles the complexities of grief, betrayal and the aspirations to live graciously, in spite of her husband’s philandering lifestyle. Cruz, who manifests the rage of a woman scorned, is dynamic enough in her performance to summon the grace with which to serve the higher calling of preserving both her namesake and Italian national pride. Enzo Ferrari is a man torn in two directions, chasing capitalistic dreams while preserving and feeding his needs as a competitor.  Finally, Ferrari acts also as a reminder that Adam Driver is a superstar, if not for the diversity and impact of his filmography to date, but for the gravity of his screen presence.  As a product of the distinct nature of his appearance, his mannerisms and daunting physicality, Driver is a uniquely gifted generationally defining actor. 

Ferrari frames a majestic mosaic of Italian landscapes against some of the most pulse pounding racing entertainment filmed in years. Michael Mann deliciously feathers the geographically diverse competition locations throughout the film’s most pivotal moments, highlighting mid-century Italian villages, cities, pastoral farmland, and the staggering presence of the Dolomite mountain range. All of which consolidate into a gloriously framed tapestry that is Mann’s most triumphant film in decades.  The complexity of Enzo Ferrari’s personal life in which he, with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley), famously fathered a son out of wedlock while still mourning the death of his firstborn, makes no pretenses about bestowing Enzo Ferrari with heroic status. While his name and legacy carry on as one of the most respected in Italian history, the trail of heartbreak and death in pursuit of that greatness cannot be forgotten.  Thanks to Ferrari, a stylish, sexy and wryly humorous return to form by one of history’s greatest directors, forgetting Enzo’s story is no longer a possibility. 

Target Score: 8.5/10   Like Enzo Ferrari, Michael Mann uses his artistic expression as a conduit for imprinting his message upon the world.  All men fail, only the bold and uniquely gifted return from the ashes of despair to leave a legacy that will echo in perpetuity.  This is certainly true of the name Ferrari, and now too for the impenetrable legacy of Michael Mann.