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Ferrari review - a steady, slow-lane biopic | reviews, news & interviews

Ferrari review - a steady, slow-lane biopic

Ferrari review - a steady, slow-lane biopic

Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz duel in Michael Mann's low-wattage look at a racing potentate

A great, dull man: Adam Driver as Enzo FerrariMain photo by Eris Hoagland, Penélope Cruz photo by Lorenzo Sisti/(c) AP

Just as Napoleon may be Ridley Scott’s most autobiographical subject, so motor-racing potentate Enzo Ferrari’s mastery of streamlined speed seems made for Michael Mann. But where his best films’ cool control accelerates into calibrated mayhem, Ferrari mostly stays underpowered.

Mann focuses on four months in 1957, when his company’s survival hinges on Enzo (Adam Driver) attracting investment with a win at the Mille Miglia, a daunting thousand-mile race around Italy’s public roads, while his domestic double-life with wife Laura (Penélope Cruz, pictured below) and long-term secret mistress Lina (Shailene Woodley) also comes to a head. The recent death of Enzo and Laura’s son Alfredo freezes their marriage in mourning and recrimination, their days starting with separate trips to his mausoleum shrine - if Enzo hasn’t tarried with Lina and their son and potential heir Piero.

A first credit since his 2009 death for screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin (a TV great for Z-Cars and Edge of Darkness, whose patchier films include The Italian Job) indicates Ferrari’s 30-year gestation. It paints the sexual politics of Enzo’s marriage in Fifties Italian fashion, with Laura a bitter harridan, and the man’s long-term affair viewed with sympathy.Penelope Cruz in FerrariMann adores alpha-masculine masters of process, but ex-racer Enzo is long removed from the action, a perhaps great man whose dull life is flattened by spread-sheets. Carrying Enzo’s middle-aged heft, Driver is broad-beamed and temperamentally stolid, too, the raging libido which intrigued Mann hard to discern. Driver is notable for his selfless duets with female co-stars, content to play the full spectrum of male power and impotence in Star Wars, Paterson, House of Gucci and Marriage Story, but his familiar underplaying alongside Cruz tips into dramatic inertness. Cruz’s flat-footed peasant waddle denotes her own thanklessly miserable part, even when taking pistol pot-shots at Enzo and sending his minions scurrying with a Gorgon glare. Cruz’s role is redeemed in a more emotionally tempered, dominant spousal showdown, when her ferocious focus freezes you to the spot.

Erik Messerschmidt’s cinematography is as subdued as Driver. This is an Italy in which the sun rarely shines, restricted for much of Ferrari’s length to autumnal hues and sepulchral interiors. Sensuality in a world defined by mechanistic metal is reserved for opera music sending Enzo into a reverie on better times, and Mann’s gimlet eye for detail, fixing on pen-ink’s wetness.Adam Driver in FerrariMann’s typically excellent supporting cast enliven a racing team led by eminence grise Taruffi (Patrick Dempsey) and fiery Spanish aristo Alfonso de Portago (Gabriel Leone), though the latter’s actress lover Linda Christian wastes Sarah Gadon, whose decorative presence adds to the period tone.

Classic motor-racing’s drama lay in a body-count which gave drivers the reckless, cavalier aura of Forties fighter pilots. Ferrari’s team write farewell letters to lovers as if on the eve of battle, and when a test-drive goes wrong, the driver’s red, splattered head is glimpsed on the distant tarmac. The Mille Miglia itself is a 25-minute Mann mini-film, suffering from interchangeable masked drivers, but catching the mad romance of a crowded field of cars speeding into the Italian night and roaring through crowded daytime streets. Cameras are immersively clamped to their juddering progress, and the denouement is shockingly violent.

Steady and safety-first till the flag goes down on the racing which provides all its visceral power, this is a beautifully crafted but counterintuitively low-voltage entry in Mann’s drifting late career.

Cruz’s peasant waddle denotes her thanklessly miserable part, even when taking pistol pot-shots at Enzo

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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