Per Matt
A passion project more than 20 years in the making, Michael Mann’s first film in eight years finally arrives in movie theaters over the Christmas weekend with Ferrari.

But why did it take so long for the filmmaker to finally reach the finish line with this one, especially after the release of Ford v Ferrari back in 2019? Well, I’m really not sure. Based on Brock Yates’ Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine, this movie has been gestating in different forms throughout the years, featuring different actors since at least 1993, if not longer.

This movie follows ex-racer Enzo Ferrari (played by Adam Driver) in 1957. It’s a story of competition and its pressures both on and off the racetrack, both professionally and personally, as the motorsports pioneer battles his main rival, as well as his wife (played by Penelope Cruz) when he’s not on the course. This makes things difficult, naturally, as Laura is also the co-owner of the race-car manufacturer with Enzo, having started the company together in 1947.

Still grieving the loss of their son, Alfredo, the couple is growing apart. Meanwhile, their best driver dies in a horrific wreck, while bankruptcy fears loom large. There’s constant bickering and accusations made, but control of the family-run business is most important. So is winning the Mille Miglia, an auto race almost 1,000 miles long spanning Italy, taking place entirely on public roads. And then there’s the revelation of a love child… talk about a whole lot of drama! I haven’t even mentioned the great race footage in the final 20 minutes!

“This is God’s way of punishing us…”

Clearly, the storyline here is centered more around the biographical elements than being 100 percent a “race” film, but the cars do play strong supporting roles to the actors. At certain points in the film, I felt like Mann might have been focusing on too many plot devices, as its main story seems to branch off one too many times (and could have gone in multiple directions). Maybe this was the development that stalled its final release date, before a final draft was eventually solidified.

While I’m a huge biopic fan and enjoyed the film’s theme, I must comment about the realism factor here. There are parts at the beginning of the film where the Italian native tongue is used — which is to be commended — but it’s really hard to understand the spoken dialogue at times without subtitles. I actually needed it most to decipher conversations from the main actors, who are speaking English with Italian accents.

Those parts were rough, I’m not gonna lie. But it wasn’t difficult to watch the wrecks here, which historically ended the lives of quite a few racers and onlookers, alike. A couple of wrecks instantly reminded me of the dramatic HANS Device safety harness requirements in NASCAR, which could have potentially helped in these types of auto accidents.

Always pushing the limits of his cars, much like how Mann pushes the limits of his films, this is not a story to triumph Ferrari’s life, but it is a personal one. And this is not a small production. Seeing 37 producers take credit, in part, for making this movie does elicit too many cooks in the kitchen, especially when its main story stalls at certain points. The same can be said of the tiresome shaky cam (But isn’t that a Mann specialty these days?).

Ferrari is an enjoyable film, but I would still like to see Michael Mann tackle smaller, more-focused films in the future and reach the finish line without taking so many detours.