Ferrari (UK Import) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jun 25, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Ferrari (UK Import) (4K UHD Review)


Michael Mann

Release Date(s)

2023 (June 10, 2024)


Neon (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: D

Ferrari (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


[Editor’s Note: This is a 4K UHD import from the United Kingdom.]

Ferrari has long been a passion project for Michael Mann on multiple levels, some of them perhaps a bit less obvious than others. While he’s described himself as not being much of a car person, he’s still been fascinated by Ferraris since his film school days, and he even used the fee that he earned from his debut feature Thief in 1981 to buy a European-spec Ferrari 308 GTB. He’s been trying to get Ferrari off the ground since the Nineties, eventually settling on the 1991 Brock Yates biography Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine as a primary source. He developed a script with original The Italian Job scribe Troy Kennedy Martin, who ended up passing away thirteen years before Ferrari actually went into production. During that span of time, the project moved through multiple iterations and different lead actors before finally settling on the 39-year-old Adam Driver to play the then 59-year-old Enzo Ferrari. Of course, the protracted development process for Ferrari afforded Mann plenty of time to do his patented meticulous research on the subject matter, and that’s where Ferrari is arguably a passion project for him on a completely different level.

That’s because Michael Mann has also long been the unacknowledged modern heir to the throne of Hawksian professionalism, and his films need to be viewed through that lens in order to be fully appreciated. Mann’s stories are always filled with people who are the best at what they do, whether distance runners, high-line thieves, FBI agents, frontiersmen, boxers, contract killers, hackers, journalists, police, or even lowly cab drivers. It’s only when they allow themselves to get distracted from their focus on the job at hand that their worlds start to fall apart—the downfalls for Frank in Thief, Neil McCauley in Heat, and Vincent in Collateral result from letting their attentions be diverted too far away from their respective tasks. (Frank is the only one of them who recognizes that fact before it’s too late.) Mann’s unspoken focus on professionalism is so strong that he’s even allowed it to trump his own obsessive focus on accuracy with a film like Public Enemies. The book by Bryan Burrough was more of an exposé, deconstructing the myth of omnicompetent FBI legends like Melvin Purvis. Yet Mann is always far more interested in proficiency than he is in incompetence, so he fully embraced the Purvis myth instead.

There’s a bit of mythmaking in Ferrari as well, but it serves as a way to support Mann’s focus on his characters maintaining their own focus on what they do best. Troy Kennedy Martin’s script is set during a narrow period in 1957 when Enzo Ferrari (Driver) stood at something of a crossroads. He had built up the company with the assistance of his wife Laura (Penélope Cruz), all while their marriage was slowly falling apart due to his constant infidelities and the recent death of their only son Dino. Enzo’s obsession with racing had brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy, forcing him to consider taking on an outside investor such as the Ford Motor Company or Fiat. Enzo’s hope was that winning the 1957 Mille Miglia would put him into a stronger negotiating position, but to get there, he had to try to maintain focus on the race while navigating between his angry wife, his mistress Lina (Shailene Woodley), and the illegitimate son who he refused to recognize publicly.

Ferrari opens in the world of myth, with Enzo dreaming of his early days as a test car and race car driver. In reality, Enzo’s record as driver was undistinguished, but Mann uses it to show the terrible joy that he felt while becoming one with a machine that was being driven to its limits (even though Brock Yates asserted that Enzo’s weakness as a driver was that he didn’t actually push cars to their limits). All of this is conveyed via a montage of stock footage intercut with some unconvincing inserts of Driver, which doesn’t necessarily start the film off on a strong note. Yet moments later, Mann demonstrates Enzo’s mastery of automobiles through his own unmatched mastery of film form. As Enzo leaves the estate where he keeps his mistress and their son, he’s shown driving a Peugeot 403, which was a popular sports sedan at the time. Still, it wasn’t a real performance vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, with awkward gear positioning on its column-mounted shifter and economy-car gear ratios. Yet Mann and his editor Pietro Scalia offer extraordinary montages of Enzo slamming through the gears, showing him at one with the machine regardless of any inadequacies that it may have.

It’s not like similar scenes in other films, which usually cut between shots of the driver, shifter, and clutch in a way that’s visually interesting but technically inaccurate. No, these are flash cuts that are in the proper rhythm and even the proper order as well. There’s nothing random about it. It’s Mann using his cinematic precision (and attention to detail!) in order to convey Enzo’s precision while driving. It’s also an example of Mann showing rather than telling. There’s plenty of exposition to be had in Ferrari, but many of its best moments are completely wordless ones like this. Another example would be a trial run at Ferrari’s test track that occurs while Enzo and Laura are at mass. A starter gun is fired when the car begins and ends its run, not for the benefit of the driver, but so that Enzo and his staff can hear it from inside the church and start their own stopwatches. It’s a beautiful way of showing that Enzo keeps his focus on his cars with little concern for how it may interfere with his personal circumstances.

That’s because Ferrari is all about control: Mann’s control of the film medium, and Enzo’s attempted control of everything around him. In Mann’s case, he insisted on as much authenticity as possible. While most of the Ferraris in the film are replicas, these are no mere kit cars. Ferrari opened its archives to the production, and both vehicle supervisor-coordinator Neil Layton and stunt coordinator Robert Nagle took full advantage of that fact. Every replica Ferrari in the film is accurate down to the smallest detail, and the combination of their 2.0-liter supercharged inline-four engines and 1,800lb curb weights meant that they drove like the wind. That’s exactly what they did, too, since CGI was kept to a relative minimum in Ferrari. There’s still plenty of digital enhancement, especially in the long shots and during the crash sequences, but these replicas really hit the road at high speed. Patrick Dempsey, who plays lead Ferrari driver Piero Taruffi, is an experienced amateur racer and did nearly all of his own driving in a replica 315 S Spider. Unlike films like Ford vs. Ferrari that claim to do things practically but end up replacing nearly everything with CGI, Michael Mann’s Ferrari is generally the real deal. (That includes the sound effects as well; while these may have been replica cars, Mann insisted that his sound designers record actual vintage vehicles instead to make sure that everything sounded as accurate as possible.)

As far as Enzo Ferrari’s attempts to retain control of everything around him, that even extends to his carefully orchestrated press conferences, where he tries to control the narrative even when he can’t actually write his own story. In 1957, he was losing control of both his company and his personal life, so racing was the one area where he could maintain at least the illusion of that control. Yet even that was problematic, because he couldn’t control his own racers no matter how hard that he tried. He tells them that driving is their deadly passion and their terrible joy, but sometimes it’s not their passion behind the wheel that’s the issue. Enzo’s downfall in Ferrari has been that he let himself get distracted from the things that he should have focused on, and some of his drivers have the same problem. (Anyone who’s familiar with the 1957 Mille Miglia will know exactly where the story is going, but what follows may qualify as vaguely-worded spoilers for those who don’t.)

Early in Ferrari, Enzo is talking to his mother (a scene-stealing Daniela Piperno) about an accident at the test track. She tries to pin the blame for it on him, but Enzo blames the driver’s mother. He claims that her constant nagging is what took the driver’s attention away from his car. Later on, Laura blames Enzo for the death of their son because she says that his infidelities took his attention away from caring for Dino. (Knowing Enzo as well as she did, she intuited exactly how to hit him where it would hurt the most.) Toward the end of the film, yet another driver also lets himself get distracted by extraneous elements from his own personal life. There’s a striking parallelism in this regard all throughout Ferrari, and in every case, losing focus on the job at hand results in something going dreadfully wrong. In other words, when anyone displays a lack of professionalism, it ends up costing them dearly one way or another. Unprofessionalism is the biggest sin in Michael Mann’s world, from The Jericho Mile through Ferrari. Mann demands the best of himself and all of his collaborators, and the dramatic conflict within his stories is often the result of someone failing to deliver their best while performing their job. (There’s an interesting form of karma in Ferrari when Mann precisely duplicates the infamous “Kiss of Death” photo during the Mille Miglia, because that ends up embodying the moment at which one of its participants loses his own precision.)

Yet ironically enough, it’s ultimately Laura who ends up pulling Enzo’s disintegrating world back together again. She’s a completely different kind of professional: a professional pragmatist. Despite Enzo’s constant betrayals (Martin’s script elides the fact that Lina was far from his only mistress), she has a laser-like focus on doing whatever may be necessary to hold her own life together. Since she has an active stake in the company, that means holding Enzo’s life together as well. Enzo may have done whatever he felt that he needed to do in order to win races, but Laura does what she has to do in order to survive. It’s a nuanced perspective on the realities of marriage that takes what could have been an otherwise thankless role for Penélope Cruz and turns it into something far more interesting. Frank’s solution to the chaos of his personal life in Thief was to turn his back on everything, but Laura’s solution is to take control of whatever she can in order to help Enzo regain his own focus. The only way that she can protect herself is to protect him, whether he deserves it or not.

While Ferrari does accurately portray Enzo Ferrari’s calculated (and largely successful) attempts to cultivate his own myth, it’s no less accurate in demonstrating the fact that he was anything but a self-made man. While Mann and Martin limited the scope of their narrative to a few short months in 1957, it was a crucial period in Enzo’s life that allowed them to capture his complexity better than any decades-spanning biopic could have done. Narrowing the focus of the film allowed Mann to narrow his own focus, and unlike some of the characters in Ferrari, Mann never, ever loses his focus on the job at hand. As a result, Ferrari is as much a portrait of Mann’s professionalism as it is of Enzo’s. It’s the fusion of man and machine, brought to life by the fusion of Mann and the machinery of filmmaking.

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt captured Ferrari digitally at 6K and 8K resolution primarily using Sony CineAlta Venice 2 cameras with Panavision Panaspeed prime lenses that were custom-tuned to create aberrations that would mimic the look of vintage lenses. He also utilized modified Panavision Primo and Fujifilm Fujinon Premiere zoom lenses, as well as a 12mm H series Panavision lens, plus Skater Scope periscope lens systems for certain shots (especially the ones involving Mann’s trademark extreme closeups). Racing sequences were captured with Red Komodo, Red V-Raptor, and Venice 2 cameras. Drone footage was captured using the standard production cameras mounted on heavy FPV drone rigs. Post-production work was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.39:1 for Ferrari’s theatrical release.

While Decal Releasing made the disappointing decision to release Ferrari on Blu-ray only in North America, Eagle Pictures released it on UHD in Italy, but the catch was that their Dolby Atmos mix was in Italian only, with the English language track downgraded to 5.1. A few other European UHD releases followed. Now, Universal has finally offered a UHD release in the U.K. that offers both a native 4K presentation of Ferrari, graded for High Dynamic Range in both Dolby Vision and HDR10, and the original English Atmos audio. What was once two is now one, and unlike a few of the European releases (the Dutch one in particular), it’s relatively easy to import.

Compared to the Blu-ray, the 4K image is noticeably crisper, sharper, and clearer—not dramatically so, especially when the Blu-ray is upscaled to 4K, but the differences are still evident even at normal viewing distances. Textures like the clothing are also more refined, especially with Enzo Ferrari’s various suits. The HDR grade strengthens the contrast range over Blu-ray, with better defined blacks, although some of the dimly-lit interiors still tend to wash out a bit—but it’s just how they were captured. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the highlights on the chrome are a bit more intense, and the vivid red paint on the various replica Ferraris is even more glistening. Michael Mann has long been a proponent of digital video, and unlike some directors and cinematographers, he doesn’t try to disguise that fact. In his earlier explorations of the technology, he even embraced the motion artifacts, noise, and other defects that were inherent to the equipment that he was using. At this stage of his career, when the technology has advanced to the point where can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, he’s still content to let high-quality digital video look exactly like digital video, and that’s precisely what he delivered with Ferrari.

Audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos and 2.0 LPCM, with optional English SDH subtitles. It’s a nicely immersive mix, with all channels filled with environmental sounds like crowds and other street noises, and the overheads are also used for effects like falling rain. The cars can be heard panning around the soundstage, even passing behind the viewer from surround channel to surround channel when appropriate. The score for Ferrari was composed by Daniel Pemberton, but it’s the distinctive roar of those vintage Ferrari engines that provides the real musical accompaniment for the film. While this mix doesn’t quite have the same level of dynamic impact as some other racing films like Ford vs. Ferrari, it’s arguably a bit more naturalistic. Still, as with any good racing film, turning the dial up to 11 certainly won’t hurt.

Universal’s Region-Free 4K Ultra HD release of Ferrari is UHD only—there’s no Blu-ray included in the package (and if that’s what you’re after, the Decal Releasing Blu-ray in the U.S. is readily available anyway). It does offer a slipcover that duplicates the artwork in the insert. The following extras are included, all of them in HD:

  • Michael Mann: Building the World (4:40)
  • Building Perfection (3:07)
  • The Mille Miglia (3:21)
  • Adam Driver on Enzo Ferrari (4:47)
  • Penelope Cruz on Laura Ferrari (3:47)

As the running times should clearly indicate, these featurettes are all fairly basic EPK-style fluff. They combine clips from the film with brief glimpses of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as interviews with Michael Mann, Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey, Erik Messerschmidt, Robert Nagle, and car body manufacturer Rita Campania. They offer a cursory examination of Mann’s attention to every possible detail, including casting his cinematographers the same way that he casts his actors. Building Perfection is probably the most interesting of all since it focuses on the construction of the picture cars, but it’s still woefully cursory. (If you’re interested in learning more, Car and Driver, Autoweek, and Esquire all have online articles on the subject.)

Ferrari definitely deserves more love in the extras department. If you really want to dig deeper into the professionalism of the cast, crew, and especially the director of Ferrari, you’re going to have to do a bit of digging online. It’s worth the effort, though, and Ferrari is well worth your time. Universal’s 4K release in the U.K. is also worth importing if you’re a fan, and with none of the caveats that affect the Italian and some of the European versions. Yes, in a perfect world, Decal Releasing would just pull the trigger on a 4K version for North America, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes, you have to go the extra mile in order to fully appreciate the professionalism of filmmakers who have already gone the extra mile. Whether or not Ferrari is worth that kind of effort is entirely up to you, but Universal’s U.K. release is unquestionably the best version of the film that’s currently available for English-speaking audiences.

- Stephen Bjork

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