Ferrari (2023) A Triumphant Return for Michael Mann B+

Working from a focused and intelligent adaptation by the late Troy Kennedy Martin of Brock Yates’ biography Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine, director Michael Mann makes a triumphant return to the screen after an eight-year absence. Making the wise decision to concentrate on just a few months of Enzo Ferrari’s life, Mann focuses on the summer of 1957 when Ferrari (Adam Driver), reeling from the death of his son Dino at the age of 24 of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, his deteriorating marriage with his wife Laura (Penelope Cruz) and his company’s impending bankruptcy, enters his racing team in the 1957 Mille Miglia. This auto race was run yearly from 1927 to 1957 and consisted of a round trip between the Lombard city of Brescia and Rome, with start/finish in Brescia. The course totaled almost a thousand miles and was made up entirely of public roads, mainly in the more remote parts of the country. The streets were lined with onlookers with no barriers, which led to the death of ten spectators – among them five children – when driver Alfonso de Portago’s (Gabriel Leone) car went out of control in the 1957 race. The Italian government then canceled the event.


Mann shoots the racing sequences with breathtaking panache and urgency, aided at every turn by his master cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and the editing genius of Pietro Scalia. It’s thrilling edge-of-your-seat entertainment, with the crash being suitably horrific. Driver, who, two years ago, played Maurizio Gucci, is much more comfortable here, nailing Ferrari’s remarkable style and ambition while also showing us his inner turmoil and pain.


Mann, the manliest of directors, surprises us with a tour de force performance by Penelope Cruz as Laua Ferrari. Having founded the company with Enzo, she holds all of the financial cards. However, with her marriage broken and her son dead, she is a shadow of her former self (there is one beautiful flashback to happier times), a cauldron of sorrow and resentment. Yet, no matter how unkept Laura appears, Cruz always projects an inner beauty, adding humor and sexiness to many of her scenes. I am doing Mann a disservice here because, back in 1992, in one of his two masterpieces, “The Last of the Mohicans” (the other, of course, is “Heat” from 1995), Mann gave us Madeleine Stowe’s Cora Munro, one of the great performances of the nineties.

Shailene Woodley has some lovely moments as Lina Lardi, Ferrari’s long-time partner with whom he has a little boy. However, she seems uncomfortable in the role, and unlike Cruz, she does not come across as Mediterranean.

The large cast also features Sarah Gadon as actress Linda Christian, who was dating de Portago at the time of the crash, Jack O’Connell as British race car driver Peter Collins, Ben Collins as British race car driver Stirling Moss, and Patrick Dempsey miscast as Italian race car driver Piero Taruffi.


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