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London Film Festival 2023: Ferrari review – Michael Mann falls severely short of the mark with new biopic

Every year at the London Film Festival, the BFI adds a surprise film to the programme which leads to endless speculation for weeks on end as to what film it could be. In previous years, films such as The Menu, Uncut Gems, No Country For Old Men and Lady Bird have been given this title, and for the 2023 festival, the surprise film ended up being none other than Michael Mann’s latest biopic, Ferrari.

Mann is a director I and many others have admired for decades. Whether you’re talking about Heat, Collateral, Thief or the highly underrated Public Enemies, the man knows what he’s doing and always delivers a memorable experience one way or the other…until now. 

Ferrari is a strange film to talk about. Everything about this film should work but doesn’t. You have a solid cast, a great director at the helm and a topic that should make for compelling viewing. Unfortunately, none of these do the film any favours at all and instead hinder the film from being as engaging as it should be.

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The film isn’t entirely awful. There are a small handful of positives that keep the slower moments afloat. The cinematography is genuinely pretty good, it’s nothing mind-blowing, but it serves the story well. Also, out of all the performances, the standout is easily Penélope Cruz as Laura Ferrari. Every time she comes on screen, it is like a breath of fresh air. There is so much intensity and pain behind her character and Cruz brings those elements so perfectly to life.

In terms of things the film does well, that is basically everything. Ferrari falls flat in a variety of areas, all of which feel as if they’re battling against each other for attention. The story never quite knows what to prioritise at any given moment, resulting in a pacing that somehow drags and rushes through events simultaneously. This isn’t helped by the fact that the editing feels more like a rough cut instead of a fully formed final product. Scenes will just start and end abruptly or just not go anywhere at all. There are also points where shots will linger for longer than they should, not giving off the dramatic punch they intended and instead coming across as awkward.

Even the score by Daniel Pemberton, who is usually on the ball when it comes to creating music that perfectly matches what’s on screen, misses the mark here. His score for Ferrari is bombastic and is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and, for once, takes you out of the movie rather than drawing you further in.

Then there’s the cast, which are a mixed bag apart from Cruz’s stellar performance. Adam Driver is fine as Enzo Ferrari but doesn’t bring anything that memorable to the table. Shailene Woodley bounces between an assortment of accents as Lina Lardi and both Jack O’Connell and Patrick Dempsey are given very little to do outside of racing cars.

Ferrari is messy, tonally inconsistent and overall very dull. The longer the film drags on, the more uninteresting it becomes, and when it tries to pull you back in with an absolutely brutal car crash in its final act that quite literally comes out of nowhere, it’s not enough to win its audience over. By that point, anything vaguely interesting that there was left in the film gets thrown straight out of the window.

London Film Festival 2023: Ferrari review – Michael Mann falls severely short of the mark with new biopic

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