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Ferrari offers a thrilling account of racing icon Enzo Ferrari's pivotal 1957 season 

Michael Mann (Thief, Manhunter, Heat, Collateral) directs this historical biopic about automotive legend Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), who in the summer of 1957 saw his professional and personal life on the precipice of disaster. His famed car company, driven to the verge of bankruptcy by his focus on racing rather than the retail car business, is nearly insolvent; he and his wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), recently lost their 24-year-old son, Dino, to muscular dystrophy; and now Laura has discovered Enzo has another son, Piero (Giuseppe Festinese), with his longtime mistress, Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley). Enzo's only way forward is to find an investor, but to do that, he must prove his car designs and stable of drivers are the best by winning the Mille Miglia, a treacherous 1,000-mile open road endurance race through Italy. (130 min.)

click to enlarge WEIGHT OF AN EMPIRE In 1957, race car building legend Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) was at risk of losing it all, as depicted in Ferrari, screening in local theaters. - COURTESY PHOTO BY LORENZO SISTI/NEON
  • Courtesy Photo By Lorenzo Sisti/neon
  • WEIGHT OF AN EMPIRE In 1957, race car building legend Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) was at risk of losing it all, as depicted in Ferrari, screening in local theaters.
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Glen Michael Mann is a brilliant director, and he's poured all his creativity into this gripping story of a man teetering on the edge. On the surface, Enzo is the picture of calm, with his impeccable suits, perfectly coiffed hair, and steely demeanor. Behind the scenes, his life is a disaster. His company only sold 98 cars the year before, and he worries only two other car manufacturers have the capital to bail him out—Ford and Fiat—both of whom he believes will demand more control than he's willing to give. His wife, Laura, is a fierce and devoted business partner, but their marriage is in name only. Her only demand is that he comes home from his philandering before the maid arrives in the morning. Meanwhile, his mistress is pressuring him to give Piero his last name before his Catholic Church confirmation, making him legitimate, something Laura—still stinging from the loss of their son—vehemently resists. The pressure is palpable throughout.

Anna Cool, calm, and collected is Enzo's outer shell, but the man certainly held a lot of tenuous strings, and the wrong one pulled could crumble his empire. He was a man who seems stone cold in some ways yet also paternal and invested in his business and everyone involved in it. He obviously still is tormented by the death of his son, Dino, as well as the deaths of friends who were drivers in a race behind the wheels of his cars 20-something years before. Driver is a talented and determined actor, studied and quietly foreboding in his role. Equally as powerful is Cruz as Laura, a woman whose grief battles to overcome her strength daily. While Enzo has had the privilege to move on with life, albeit in secret from Laura, she is stuck in the washer cycle of loss around the death of a child, with barely a husband to console her. The two give a glimpse into a largely unknown story behind the yellow and black logo so many know by sight.

Glen Like the terrific Ford v Ferrari (2019), this is a film about both the passion for racing and the kinds of personalities such dangerous passions attract. Mann is masterful in his filming and depictions of the Mille Miglia. You feel like you're in the car racing at breakneck speeds through the Italian countryside and through small villages. Hovering over the deep reverence for racing is the threat of death. These men know the risks, but they see something heroic in the endeavor, and they are indeed celebrities. It all feels very romantic and also very foolish.

Anna This film is gorgeous in every way, and there's no doubt why some people live and breathe for these machines—they truly are pieces of art. There's a wonderful balance between the heart-thumping racing scenes and the inner turmoil of Enzo's personal life. I loved Ford v Ferrari, and I loved Ferrari, so I guess these films have made a racing fan out of me in some way. I wouldn't be surprised to see these performances on the list of Oscar nominations released later this month, and they are all well deserved. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Comment at [email protected].

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