Telluride: Christian Bale Is the Standout of Fest Opener 'Ford v. Ferrari'

If Fox can convince the stars of its car racing thriller — and Oscar voters — that Bale is actually a supporting actor in the film, then he could be a contender.
Courtesy of TIFF
Matt Damon (left) and Christian Bale in 'Ford v. Ferrari'

The 46th Telluride Film Festival kicked off Friday with James Mangold's Ford v. Ferrari, which screened at the 650-seat Herzog Theatre in the coveted 'Patron Preview' slot that has launched many a film into awards contention. My hunch is that this immensely entertaining if also overly long (152 minutes) thriller from Fox will do better at the box office than it will with the Academy.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star as men on the front lines of the cut-throat battle between the titular American and Italian car companies to win the 24-hour Le Mans sports car race in France back in 1966. Both do excellent work — Mangold is a terrific director of actors. Bale, as the eccentric British racer Ken Miles, has the more colorful part and does wonders with it.

Damon is very good, too, as his calming influence, American racer turned car designer Carroll Shelby, and probably has a bit more screen time, but winds up feeling like Mark Wahlberg probably did opposite Bale in 2010's The Fighter, for which Bale won the best supporting actor Oscar.

If Fox can convince its stars and Oscar voters that Bale is actually a supporting actor in the film, then he could be a contender. If he and Damon wind up pitted in the same category, however, my hunch is neither will make it. Phedon Papamichael's cinematography, film editing by Andrew Buckland and Michale McCusker, Marco Beltrami's original score and the film’s sound editing and sound mixing are also possibilities.

Not to suggest all car racing movies are the same or will be regarded as such in the awards season, but I suspect that Ford v. Ferrari will ultimately enjoy a trajectory fairly similar to Ron Howard's 2013 film Rush, for which a supporting actor (Daniel Bruhl) got a lot of heat, including Critics' Choice, BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG nominations, but ultimately came up a bit short with the Academy in all categories.