Adam Driver Is the Engine That Drives 'Ferrari'

Directed by Michael Mann

Starring Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Gabriel Leone, Jack O'Connell, Patrick Dempsey

Photo: Lorenzo Sisti

BY Rachel HoPublished Dec 19, 2023

Perhaps it's fitting to cap 2023 off with yet another film about a brand. Unlike its genre predecessors, though, Ferrari examines a label that holds a historic legacy detached from the nostalgia of Millennials and Gen X. 

Michael Mann's biopic of the famed Enzo Ferrari, played by Adam Driver, closes in on a critical time in Il Commendatore's life: his son Dino had just passed away from muscular dystrophy at only 24 years of age, his 30-plus-year marriage was crumbling in large part due to their son's untimely death, his mistress was pressing him to recognize their illegitimate son, and the company he founded was on the brink of bankruptcy. Of course, we know how the story ends. To this day, Ferrari excels as not only a luxury brand, but as a respected name in racing, which Enzo would surely be thrilled about.

The climax of Ferrari surrounds the 1957 Mille Miglia, a race that was held in Italy using public roads as its track. Leading up to this set piece, Ferrari follows the team's preparation and challenges, and the ensuing media circus that followed them. The race would end in tragedy for the team in spite of Piero Taruffi's (Patrick Dempsey) victory under the Ferrari banner. 

Mann's command of the racing scenes across the film brings about an odd comfort, almost as if this is exactly the type of film he should be making. Yes, the car crashes are excessive and dramatic — but would it be a Michael Mann movie if they were tame and understated? There's no doubt that the crash during Mille Miglia is grotesque — although, given the reality of what happened that day, Mann's vision doesn't feel that far off-base. The veteran director pumps a great deal of adrenaline and mayhem into these sequences, creating a visceral and entertaining experience — until it's not.

For all the vrooming and zooming, the heart of Ferrari prevails within Enzo's personal life. Driver puts forward an earnest performance, especially in moments with Penélope Cruz playing Enzo's wife Laura, and Shailene Woodley as his mistress Lina. The relationship between each character is distinctive and unique, even though they share the similar trait of love with a deep sense of shared history. Although there is an age difference between Lina and Laura, the typical trademarks associated with such affairs are refreshingly non-existent here. 

Marrying these two aspects of the film creates a finely layered approach to Enzo's story. Known for being detailed and cautious during his lifetime, especially when it came to dealing with the media, Ferrari cracks open a glimpse into the internal stirrings of a man whose name lives on. While the spectacle of the film will be the main event, it's the humanity of Enzo as a husband, father and lover that stays with audiences.
(Elevation Pictures)

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