I am not interested in cars as anything other than a means of getting from one point to another. In a rare moment of clarity in “A Faster Horse,” director David Gelb’s otherwise gauzy and interminable paean to the genius of the Ford Motor Company and its ostensible masterpiece, the Mustang, somebody says, “If you were really logical, you would never buy a Mustang.” And I thought, “Yes! Finally, someone is starting to make sense! Why would anyone buy this thing?” Like I said, I’m not a car guy. I once owned a 1991 Lincoln Town Car I really liked, but, yeah, I’m not exactly the target audience for this movie.
But I’m not particularly into sushi either, and I still quite enjoyed Gelb’s previous documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” about sushi master Jiro Ono’s tiny and very expensive fish joint. In “Jiro” it was pretty fascinating to watch the meticulous preparation of rice and the artful slicing of tuna, and if that didn’t grab you, there was Jiro’s weird semi-ascetic monomania and the fascinating family drama. “A Faster Horse” is pretty light on the details of the its subject — the 2015 redesign of the Mustang — and even lighter on human interest of any kind. So shallow and uncritical is this movie that it easily could have been produced by Ford’s PR department.
The whole thing just feels like a commercial, or at least like the automotive equivalent of a making-of featurette. (I can hear the sales pitch now: “Buy the 2015 Mustang for the low, low price of just $25,000, and we’ll throw in a free DVD of ‘A Faster Horse’!”) Gelb parallels the design process of the new Mustang — from concept to manufacture — with the story behind the original Mustang fifty years earlier. Neither of these threads was particularly interesting to me, and the juxtaposition only served to highlight how cautious the current design process is. Ford is now clearly in the position of preserving a very lucrative legacy than in pushing boundaries of any kind. Gelb’s approach is annoyingly unspecific — he dips into conference meetings and testing sessions briefly before cutting to yet another talking head telling us how important it is that Ford gets this right — but the details he does show us are not terribly engaging, cost-benefit analyses and minor engineering issues like a shaky steering wheel.
There is none of “Jiro”’s human drama in “Horse.” The guys profiled — mostly doughy, middle-aged engineers — come off as characterless and boring. Dave Pericak, the chief engineer of the 2015 Mustang and Gelb’s ostensible protagonist, is particularly bland, an exceptional engineer and manager to be sure, but hardly an engrossing subject. Late in the film someone claims that “people’s personalities are reflected in what they do,” which is a more damning critique of the 2015 Mustang’s MOR aesthetic than I could provide.
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Keith, you were right in the first place… You are not a car guy at all.
For car guys, all of this means everything to see how a car concept goes from paper to production… All the hurdles, questions, decisions, and ideas that take on life.
To Mustang guys ( and I am one) this car is truly amazing in that it has lasted 50 years straight, ( no other specific model can say that except Volkwagon ). Now, before Corvette owner get upset, there was no 1983 Corvette and Corvette was never produces in the yearly amounts as Mustang. This car is always aggressively designed for the time period, with numerous versions, and options.
Is Mustang the greatest car ever made? Probably not to the masses, but to Mustang guys I am sure it is… And all of the history of how it came about is part of that craving for the car.
Keith, you are entirely correct. “A faster horse”, whether intended or not, comes off as pure PR by Gelb for the Ford Motor Co. I watched this documentary based on Gelb’s superb delivery of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (Jiro). “Jiro” was, deservedly, one of the best documentaries I have ever watched. “A Faster Horse”, however, is a shameful delivery of pure PR trash with no other message than “Mustang is great”, “US car-making is great”, self-serving bullcrap. Gelb should be ashamed for wasting his viewers’ time.
Keith I agree whole heartedly with your review and I do consider myself a car guy. The movie was very light on substance, the human story was bland and the engineering aspect of the story was short of detail. To gloss over the not so great years, and to elevate the Mustang to the level of national pride quickly became trite. A PR film, most likely underwritten by Ford, to say the least.
There is no good reason to buy a Mustang except that it makes people happy. The 2015 – Mustangs feel different and define the joy of driving, with their exquisite balance of power, acceleration, handling. suspension, and comfort. The film “A Fast Horse” gives an idea of how hard it has been to achieve that balance over five years of design and testing. The film is about the people who made this happen, and the car buyer is the winner. The Mustang is a “blue-collar” sports car, world class but at a price most new-car buyers can afford. The film helps to explain how this seemingly impossible blend of high performance and low cost has been achieved: an American car that can, without embarrassment, be compared to Porsche, Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the like but at a fraction of the cost.
You should all watch a 100% independent documentary from the Philippines about vintage muscle cars. They got all 3, Ford, GM and Mopar. The Documentary is called “MOTIV8TION” (2015). The trailer is on youtube and it’s available on Vimeo. It’s a fantastic documentary by obviously passionate people who deserve to reach a wide audience. I hope it will be picked up for serious distribution soon.