Movie review: 'Ferrari' bogged down in obsessive detail

Adam Driver plays Enzo Ferrari in "Ferrari." Photo courtesy of Neon
1 of 5 | Adam Driver plays Enzo Ferrari in "Ferrari." Photo courtesy of Neon

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Ferrari is clearly an extensively researched biography, but in focusing on such details, writer-director Michael Mann lost track of the characters and story.

The film starts In 1957, when Ferrari is spending more on its racing division than it is making and selling cars. Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) must make a deal to produce and sell more consumer cars, but his real passion is for developing his race team.


Enzo's wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz), has a portion of the company's stock in her name because Enzo signed it over to her during World War II. So, Enzo will need her cooperation, which is fraught because he also is having an affair with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley).

The film, in theaters Monday, based on Brock Yates' book Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine, is more focused on the business of developing the company's dual divisions. It only pays some attention to Enzo's relationship dynamics with the two women.


That means the actual driving is minimal. Most racing scenes are brief and focus on the most harrowing moments.

Most are not overblown crashes because automobile malfunctions generally aren't that dramatic. Two crashes in the film are deadly, but feel so overblown they undermine the moment.

In the second one, in which a crash kills a crowd of fans, bad computer effects distract from the tragedy of innocent bystanders. Perhaps it is good Mann didn't endanger real stunt people trying to capture it, but they look obviously animated.

Then, their bodies on the ground are gratuitous showing off the graphic gore. By comparison, the actual consequences to Ferrari are relegated to a line of text before the credits roll.

For a better example of portraying a crash in an unflinching way, the Netflix movie Society of the Snow depicts the Andes plane crash with graphic injuries, but does not have distracting or gratuitous effects.

Whether discussing mechanics, the specifics of business or the medical condition that claimed Enzo and Laura's son, the characters speak in very specific terminology. No doubt the terms are accurate, but it leaves little room to get to know the characters.


Driver transforms into Enzo and Cruz meets him in her performance. Patrick Dempsey, too, disappears in the role of driver Piero Taruffi.

After the last race concludes, Enzo and Laura resolve their conflict. However, it seems like most of their growth occurred off-screen in between the scenes in which they yell at each other a lot.

There is a little bit of rivalry between the drivers, all of whom would prefer to be the first one to cross the finish line. That, too, seems like filler until one inevitably wins, as dictated by history.

Though Ford vs. Ferrari took Ford's perspective in the Le Mans 1966 competition, it told a clear story that impacted the fate of both cars. There are surely several interesting stories about Enzo Ferrari, but the leverage of consumer production for racing in 1957 might not have been the most cinematic.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


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