31 Mar 2020
I wasn’t able to catch Ford v. Ferrari in theaters, but I did manage to see it while sheltering at home from COVID-19 this last weekend. Although the movie had some issues (notably a one-dimensional antagonist and lack of female characters - Keith Law has a good write-up if you want a review from a competent reviewer), I had a lot of fun watching it. I do have a couple of things to say about it, though.
Namely, the title Ford v. Ford would have been more apt (although not better). While the movie was nominally about Ford wanting to build a car to beat Ferrari, the latter automaker has a remarkably small role in the movie. All of the real conflict was about Ford getting it its own way.
This got me to thinking about when I was practicing Kendo. During that time, one of the pivotal moments for me was when I realized that winning a match had a lot more to do with me overcoming my own limitations than with what my opponent was doing. I won’t go into this idea too much here, but it is tied into the stoic idea of dichotomy of control (of which I was unaware at the time), which basically states that we shouldn’t place much weight on things which are outside of our control. In a competition, our opponent’s actions are not in our control, so really the only thing that we should care about is not whether we win or lose, but whether we did our best under the circumstances.
The movie deals with this in a couple of ways, mainly with the ways in which Ford got in the way of Shelby and Miles, but also with Miles’ attitude towards attempting to one day drive the perfect lap, where every element is perfectly executed and harmoniously connected. Unfortunately the movie spent a lot more time on the former when I wish it had spent more time on the latter (I would have liked to see more of him hashing it out with his wife, and the scene where he talked about it with his son could have used some more support). I also think that this would have led the movie to end on a better note.
This idea of competing with oneself makes a sort of intuitive sense, we can all probably think of times when we have gotten in our own way. Winning that internal competition is difficult and to me, it has a lot to do with being in harmony with oneself. Practicing Kendo was an exercise in getting my mind and body on the same page (see Ki Ken Tai Ichi). But how does internal harmony work when you scale it up to a team? A company? A government? A society?
The movie in no way answers these questions, which isn’t a flaw in my books, since those answers aren’t easy to come by and are riddled with complexity (At what point does unity turn toxic, as in Fascism? How does unity balance with diversity, which provides its own sort of strength?). For a movie that I expected to be fun but shallow, even raising these questions is a win. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should.