“Two objects cannot occupy the same point in space at the same moment in time”. This line of dialogue opens and closes the trailer for Michael Mann’s Ferrari.
On a surface level, Enzo Ferrari is drilling in to his drivers the need to commit to the moment, to push beyond their limits and nerves, and do what is necessary to move past their competitors in order to win.
However, if one digs a little deeper, one finds that this line of dialogue perfectly encapsulates Mann’s biopic of “Il Commodantore”, the founder of the racing team and luxury car manufacturer.
Inspired by the book Enzo Ferrari: The Man and The Machine, screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin’s screenplay focuses on one specific moment in time: The Summer of 1957. Ferrari is going broke and in order to turn his, and his company’s fortunes around, he is given a simple ultimatum. Have one of his cars win the prestigious Mille Miglia, a 1000-mile race around Italy.
In his pursuit of redemption and greatness, he finds himself on a collision course with many competing aspects of his turbulent life. There is the racing purist versus the capitalist. Then there are the two women he finds himself pulled between; his wife (still grieving the loss of their son), and his mistress and their son.
Adam Driver is the driving force here. A workhorse performance that is more restrained than his other recent trip to Italy in The House Of Gucci. However there are moments, such as intense arguments with his wife, where he gets to put his foot on the gas and go full throttle.
Making the most of her limited screen time, Cruz gives as good as she gets. Going toe to toe with Il Commondante, making one wonder where the true power lies in this dynasty. Woodley, as the mistress, is a more passive, calming presence but lacks impact.
Any time spent with the ever-growing turmoil in his family life means less time spent on the track. For petrolheads and Tifosi (the Italian name for fans of Ferrari), the frequent elongated pit stops may cause their patience to wear thin by the time the cars set off on the fabled race.
The result is rather pedestrian in terms of its pacing.
There is a quote from American author Napoleon Hill that reads, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice…”. This is certainly true of Ferrari, although the sacrifice for those other than Enzo was often their life. The film does not shy away from the danger involved when people “get behind the wheel of one of his cars”. It is brutal and visceral, albeit all too brief.
As the initial quote states, “two objects cannot occupy the same point in space at the same moment in time”. The film attempts to explore the man behind the machine. Simultaneously exploring the dichotomy of man. Enzo, the family man, and Enzo the competitor. Ultimately the film cannot focus on both, and the more interesting aspect – the opportunity to drill down into what makes Ferrari a man that drivers would willingly put their lives on the line for a shot at greatness for – is the victim of the inevitable collision.
Ferrari is in UK cinemas from December 26
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey
Runtime: 135 minutes