Ferrari review: Adam Driver excels as Enzo threatens to be pulled apart

Sam Cooper
Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari

Adam Driver plays the lead role of Enzo Ferrari struggling to save his business.

In Ferrari, Adam Driver is forced to share the stage with another co-star.

No, not Penélope Cruz who excellently portrays Ferrari’s wife Laura or even his mistress Lina Lardi played by Shailene Woodley. But rather the force Driver is made to contend with is death itself.

Of all the teams to be picked for the focus of a $95 million Hollywood blockbuster, it should come as little surprise that Ferrari was the one chosen. For many, cars and racing is Ferrari. As Sebatian Vettel once said “everyone is a Ferrari fan, even if they say they’re not” and when a young child draws a race car it is the red crayon they reach for.

But Michael Mann’s film is not about the team’s origins, or even the team’s success, but rather its survival and Enzo’s own survival. The film is focused on 1957, 18 years after Enzo relaunched the company and seven years after the start of Formula 1.

Formula 1 however plays a minor role. Save from the mention of the ’57 Monaco race, where two Ferrari drivers crashed out in lap 4, and some of the names such as Moss, Hawthorn and Fangio, this is predominantly a film about sports car racing.

It makes sense why that was the choice. In the 1950s, F1 was not the all-encompassing beast it is now and as is mentioned in the movie, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Today, Ferrari is worth over $60 billion but back in Enzo’s time, it was a case of survival. His passion for racing was being funded by their road car sales but with just 98 sold in the previous year and his arch rival Maserati overtaking them on the track, all was not well for Comandante.

Over the course of two hours and 11 minutes, you see how Enzo is being torn into many pieces. The death of his son Dino haunts him as do the two friends he lost on the same afternoon decades previously and even in his older years, death is still lurking behind every corner.

And it is clear why death is such a constant throughout the film. These days, drivers deaths are thankfully a rare occurrence but back in the ‘50s, it was simply a part of the profession so much so that drivers used to write final letters to their spouses before entering a race. After losing a test driver, Driver’s Enzo gives the look of a man who has seen it all before but behind closed doors, it is clear it hurts him just as much as the first one did.

There is trouble at home as well with Cruz’s Laura exuding the anger and bitterness of a forgotten wife while Woodley’s Lina represents the path Enzo wants to follow but cannot for the sake of the company.

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From his office in Maranello, Enzo contemplates which is the lesser of two evils – Ford or Fiat – as he seeks capital to keep the brand afloat.

But the future of Ferrari came down to one race in particular, the 1957 Mille Miglia. A course of almost 1,000 miles across Italy is built as the centre point of the movie and the defining moment in Enzo and Ferrari’s life.

Driver plays an excellent Enzo. Portraying emotion whilst rarely breaking from his monotone style and the young drivers demonstrate the all or nothing approach that racers tend to have.

Enzo Ferrari at the Mille Miglia.

Drivers for the Ferrari movie.

The film is let down by the crash sequences which see bodies and cars flung into the air as if the wheels had been replaced with springs but if the decision was to spend the $95 million budget elsewhere then it was a wise choice – for Ferrari’s beauty is Italy’s beauty.

Stunning shots of glorious red cars accelerating through Italian countryside help to give the movie colour at a time when viewers were stuck with black and white. The racing scenes feel real and rare enough for them to be special every time they are on screen and all of this combines to make it hard not to walk away feeling a little bit more of a Ferrari fan than you were going in.

66 years on from that race and the Ferrari team is still built in Enzo’s mould and perhaps that is why they are still so loved.

There is something perfectly imperfect about the Prancing Horse, a labour of love more than the ruthless precision of their English rivals and even if they are profitable now, it came to Enzo to steer the team away from oblivion.

Ferrari is in cinemas on Boxing Day.

★ ★ ★ ★

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