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December 25, 2023 / Elevation Pictures

Starring: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gordon, Gabriel Leone, Jack O'Connell, Patrick Dempsey

Directed By: Michael Mann

A biopic of automotive mogul Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), whose family redefined the idea of the high-powered Italian sports car and practically spawned the concept of Formula One racing.

Written By Darren

Rating 2.5 out of 5

Ferrari revs its engines loud, but Michael Mann’s latest film that focuses on the life of car racer and entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari in the summer of 1957 is a muddled mess that fails to capture the excitement audiences want from a film about Ferrari or to provide its talented cast with a good screenplay to work with.

Michael Mann is a prolific filmmaker who has delivered outstanding thrillers such as Heat and Collateral, while his more recent films have been a mixed bag. But with Mann directing a biopic about Enzo Ferrari with Adam Driver in the lead role, it signaled a comeback for the acclaimed director. Though even if he had a better sound mix to this film that would make it easy for audiences to hear the dialogue, there are still too many problems to make it a return to form for Mann. There is too much story happening, resulting in every plot line sacrificing its depth to provide a cursory overview of all of them, while the entire supporting cast is left with very little screen time despite each of their characters being an important part of Ferrari’s life in the time period of the film. Even with Penélope Cruz firing on all cylinders every second she is on screen, there is no force of nature that can get Mann’s latest film across the finish line successfully.

During the summer of 1957, there was a lot happening during the life of Enzo Ferrari from the recent loss of his son Dino with his wife Laura, his illegitimate child Piero being his only successor and the pressures from his mother Lina for Enzo to recognize him as the legitimate heir to his empire, the financial struggles of his company threatening its future, and preparations for the 1957 Mille Miglia race. Realistically there is too much for a film with a run time of just over two hours to properly cover all of it with the required depth in each aspect of Ferrari’s life to create the dramatic film audiences are looking for. And instead of focusing on one element in particular and fully developing it, the screenplay attempts to cover it all and loses the compelling story it could have told. The racing and struggling business is forgotten for large portions of the film and any dialogue surrounding it does not convey the interesting behind the scenes drama of the Ferrari motor company, while the exploration of the relationships with Laura and Lina are both extremely surface level, not giving enough time to either actress to show why these women were both so important to Enzo. Much like racer car drivers, the screenplay is constantly changing lanes between plot threads, making the entire film feel rushed, emotionless and dull despite the high speed it moves at.

For a movie about a period in Enzo Ferrari’s life where he was trying to reinvigorate his company and save it from financial struggles through his racing division, there should have been more racing sequences in the film. There is no doubt that Mann is at his best during the racing scenes, finding an exhilarating energy and speed as director that audiences associate with the Ferrari brand, only bolstered by strong sound design during the racing scenes. It’s especially evident during the 1957 Mille Miglia race, which makes up the majority of the third act, as Mann slowly builds the excitement as the racers get closer and closer to the finish line. Though sadly, the most intense and dramatic moments of the racing sequences are derailed by laughably bad CGI that fully removes the audience from the moment, even if the story that is unfolding during these moments should leave the audience in shock and emotionally rattled. While the film was originally slated for a streaming release, with a budget of just under $100 million dollars and not an exuberant amount of involved CGI shots throughout the film, there is no reason for the most dramatic moments of the film to look so cheap.

There is no question that Ferrari has an impressive cast including Driver, Cruz and Shailene Woodley, and while none of them are bad, the screenplay fails almost every member of the cast. Driver does a good job as Enzo Ferrari, playing the role with a reflectiveness as he mourns the loss of his son while trying to figure out how to move forward with not only his wife and mistress, but with his struggling company. But with a screenplay that tackles each topic without much depth, Driver is left on his own with little material to work with. Woodley is fine, but she is so sporadically used throughout the film and without dialogue for many scenes that the film fails to utilize her talents as an actress or highlight the importance of Lina to Enzo. Though her Italian accent is rough, the sound mix for the film outside of the racing sequences is so poor that it’s hard to hear her or many of the other performances, which oddly helps her accent from sticking out. The supporting cast features Patrick Dempsey, Jack O’Connell, Sarah Gadon and Gabriel Leone, all of whom are fine while they are on screen, but they are so sparingly used that you forget they are in the film until they reappear again.

If there is a saving grace of this film, it is the supporting performance of Cruz. From the second she appears on screen; Cruz runs away with the entire film with a spirited performance that outshines every other aspect of the film. Fiery, passionate and highly intelligent, Cruz brings Laura Ferrari to life and captures all the aspects to her character: a grieving mother, a business woman trying to support her husband as he focuses on the car aspect of the business they built together, and a scorned lover. It’s a captivating performance that injects the film with a much needed vigour, largely thanks to the unpredictable and unstoppable nature that Cruz captures within Laura, though sadly Cruz is not given nearly enough screen time to truly elevate the film as she will appear for a few minutes at a time, then disappear for a good twenty minutes before reappearing. As a performance, Cruz delivers yet another stellar one to add to her resume and if Ferrari had been better overall, Cruz’s work would have made a strong argument for a nomination for Best Supporting Actress amongst voters this awards season.

A film about Ferrari and car racing should be exciting, and with the complicated life that Enzo Ferrari had during the summer of 1957, it should be a dramatic home run. But sadly, the majority of the excitement is drained from the story by a scattered screenplay that cannot find its focus, while the racing sequences are derailed by terrible CGI at the most climatic moments. Not even a tour de force supporting performance from Penélope Cruz can deliver the first prize winner that Michael Mann aims for with Ferrari, but instead results in a film that struggles to get across the finish line.

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