Why ‘Ferrari’ Is Being Called ‘The Best Car Movie Ever Made’
Director Michael Mann’s Adam Driver-led Enzo Ferrari biopic is drawing critical praise ahead of its Dec. 25 release.
Forget Le Mans, the entire Fast and the Furious franchise, and even 2020’s Ford vs Ferrari, because director Michael Mann’s Ferrari is being hailed as the “first great car movie.”
That’s according to The Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning auto columnist Dan Neil, who has “been to Maranello many times to test the latest hardware” and interviewed Piero Ferrari, the marque’s vice chairman and founder Enzo Ferrari’s only living son (Maxim also interviewed Piero for Ferrari’s diamond anniversary in 2022.)
Mann—who previously helmed Heat, Collateral and The Last of the Mohicans—zooms in on an especially pivotal period in the Prancing Horse brand’s history.
See the official synopsis from distributor NEON below:
Ferrari is set during the summer of 1957. Behind the spectacle and danger of 1950’s Formula 1, ex-racer, Enzo Ferrari, is in crisis. Bankruptcy stalks the company he and his wife, Laura, built from nothing ten years earlier. Their tempestuous marriage struggles with the mourning for their one son. Ferrari struggles with the acknowledgement of another. His drivers’ lust to win pushes them out to the edge. He wagers all in a roll of the dice on one race, the treacherous 1,000-mile race across Italy, the iconic Mille Miglia.
According to Neil, the movie’s screenplay, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, portrays Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) as a meticulously dressed maniac who turns to tyrannical measures to ensure victory. The trailer sets up as much, as the only dialogue comes from the mouth of an austere Ferrari as he dictates, “If you get into one of my cars, you get in to win.”
Ferrari’s tumultuous relationship with his wife, Laura Ferrari (Penelope Cruz), is also examined closely. And of course, there are plenty of period-correct rides to fawn over.
“Every frame of this film will make car-lovers want to roll around like a cat on catnip. Scaglietti-bodied Testarossas, Fantuzzi-bodied Maseratis, Jaguar D-Types, Mercedes 300 SLs, all glowing in the rich, reddening light of Emilia-Romagna,” Neil writes. “According to Mann, the stunt cars were all exact replicas with the exception of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s Maserati 450 S, which was the real thing, worth tens of millions.”
“Going in I was skeptical whether any racing film could attract a general audience. Few movies set in a racing milieu hold up as cinema. Actually, most of them are ridiculous, Neil continues. “Mickey Rooney in The Big Wheel, Sly Stallone in Driven. Fuhgettaboutit. Steve McQueen’s beloved Le Mans is just stupid, a petulant farce wrapped around racing footage.”
Fortunately, Ferrari doesn’t slip into any of those pitfalls.
“I am now prepared to declare “Ferrari” the best car movie ever made—maybe even the first great car movie,” Neil boldly concludes. “It’s a spectacular piece of filmmaking, worthy of the legend.”
That sensational take is the opinion of just one enthusiastic reviewer. Car and Driver was more restrained in their praise of Ferrari, writing, “The film resembles those iconic Ferraris: It’s meticulously designed and constructed, beautiful to look at, and often exhilarating to experience. But it also resembles Enzo himself, shaped partly by myth and hard to pry open, occasionally more slick and sleek than emotionally moving.”
Draw your own conclusions when Ferrari races into theaters on Dec. 25, 2023.