In Ford v Ferrari, Christian Bale plays Ken Miles, one of the best driver’s in racing history. Bale dives deeply into the character, as he always does as an actor, finding the physicality, the voice, even the laugh. What’s shocking about his portrayal is that it comes just one year after he played, with startling sharpness and uncanny similarity to Vice President Dick Cheney. Most actors don’t have those two kinds of performances in a single career, let alone have them be just the tip of the iceberg of what this actor can do.
It is a little hard to fathom an actor like Bale. He’s so good that he is often overlooked, and in fact Ford v Ferrari is so good it is almost always overlooked – at least so far this awards season. But if I was teaching a class on how to make a movie this would be the one I plucked from the pile to say — this is how you write, this is how you direct, this is how you act.
Whether Christian Bale will make it in or not is tough to say. The Best Actor race is so packed, they could expand it to ten and it would still be competitive. No film critic group would ever feel any sort of street cred choosing Christian Bale for this movie this year but the actors certainly did. They watched his performance and they got it.
One of the best things about Ford v Ferrari is Bale’s work in it. He never takes short cuts. He always finds the truth in his work and in the person he plays. Much of the thrill of this film is watching him alone in a car making the magic happen.