Kurt Verlin
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Film Review: ‘The 24 Hour War’

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Ford and Ferrari race cars

4.5 out of 5 stars rating

 

 

The 24 Hour War coverGenre: Documentary
Directors/Producers: Adam Carolla and Nate Adams
Publisher: Chassy Media
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Cast: Henry Ford III, Edsel Ford II, Piero Ferrari, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, David Hobbs, Bob Bondurant, Peter Brock, John Surtees, Mauro Forghieri
Website: http://chassymedia.com

The 24 Hour War is a new documentary film about the famous rivalry between Ford and Ferrari in the 1960s. Though the focal point of that rivalry—both in real life and in the documentary—was the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, the “war” between the two manufacturers spanned far longer than a mere day and it is that long build-up that the film primarily focuses on illuminating.

Most people with an interest in motorsports already know the key events: in 1963, Enzo Ferrari pulled out of a deal with Ford that had taken months to negotiate, infuriating Henry Ford II who decided to get even by dethroning Ferrari where it mattered the most—at Le Mans. While people often tell the story with a derisive remark or two about Ferrari’s ego, The 24 Hour War does a remarkable job of remaining fair to both parties. In fact, you barely get a sense that there was any animosity at all between Ferrari and Ford. The former was in it for the racing and the latter was in it to show its performance chops in an attempt to sway the public away from the Corvette—and that simply meant beating Ferrari.

As a motorsports enthusiast, I truly appreciated that the documentary didn’t just focus on the 1960s drama but first took the time to set the stage, going as far back as Henry Ford’s and Enzo Ferrari’s formative automotive years and shedding light on why racing is so important to manufacturers and customers alike. You can tell the people behind the film have a true passion for racing and what it brings out in us.

Perhaps that should not be surprising, as The 24 Hour War features big names such as Edsel Ford II and Henry Ford III, both direct descendants of Henry Ford; Piero Ferrari, son of Enzo Ferrari; Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, and John Surtees, three of the most successful racing drivers in history; and even Bob Bondurant, though I would have liked to have had subtitles whenever he was on-screen.

Under the direction of Adam Carolla and Nate Adams, they help paint a vivid picture of what it was like to race in the 1960s, which quickly led me to appreciate the advancements in safety we have made since then. The risks involved were simultaneously amazing and horrifying, and while I am glad at how much things have changed in that regard, I can’t help but feel a little awe and admiration for people like Andretti and Surtees for daring to race in that era.

Most of the story is told from the Ford side, though each bit featuring Piero Ferrari and Mauro Forghieri, the former technical director of Ferrari’s racing department, provides delightful new insight into Enzo Ferrari’s character and the ongoings of the Scuderia as Ford was ramping up the competition, which hadn’t turned out to be so easy. One thing The 24 Hour War makes clear is that it took a lot of work and failure before Ford could finally get that historic 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 Le Mans race and the three subsequent victories with the iconic GT40.

Ford wins Le Mans 1966

Ford GT40s line up for a 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans

Once again, I have to commend the lack of bias in the documentary (as should be expected of a documentary though it is sadly not always the case). Even though Ford never relinquished the upper hand once it finally took it, winning Le Mans from 1966 to 1969, and though Ferrari never won Le Mans again after 1965, the film never attempts to gloat or claim that Ford had “won” the war—instead choosing to pay respect to both manufacturers and the beautiful cars they had produced.

You might find that the film doesn’t hold your attention if motorsports don’t interest you; but if you do have any sort of interest in cars or racing, I strongly recommend putting this film on your watch list.

The 24 Hour War is available on Chassy.com, iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other digital platforms.

Product provided for review by publisher.

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  • Kurt VerlinEditor

    Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.