"Ford v Ferrari" stars a couple of Oscar winners named Matt Damon and Christian Bale, who are exceptionally good as two racing rebels fighting the corporate mind-set in the midst of Ford Motor Co.'s quest to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
That's why it's even more impressive that Tracy Letts -- who has a supporting role as Henry Ford II, the ultimate 1960s CEO -- dominates every scene that he's in.
Imposing, inflexible and blunt, Letts is mesmerizing as Ford rails about "getting it in the tailpipe from Chevy Impala" and orders Carroll Shelby (Damon) to "go to war" against Ferrari.
When rising young executive Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) initially urges Ford to take on European racing, Iacocca says, "James Bond does not drive a Ford, sir."
"That's because he's a degenerate," retorts the man nicknamed in the press as "Hank the Deuce."
Don't be surprised if Letts becomes a favorite on Oscar prediction lists. The Gold Derby awards site has praised his performance in "Ford v Ferrari," noting, "It's the kind of supporting role Oscars were made for: a transformative, scene-stealing portrait of a real historical figure."
The 54-year-old Letts already has nabbed some top honors. The actor and playwright has won a Pulitzer for writing "August: Osage County" and a Tony for his performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" He's probably best known to moviegoers for his roles as the dad in "Lady Bird" and a newspaper executive in "The Post."
Letts currently has one play on Broadway, the midlife-crisis comedy/drama "Linda Vista," and another opening March 15, the politically themed "The Minutes," in which he'll play the mayor of a divided city.
During a phone interview, he admits that he gets "asked to play a lot of hard-asses, guys in suits, and stuff like that."
He credits the strength of the screenplay of "Ford v Ferrari" (co-written by another acclaimed playwright, Jez Butterworth) -- and, in particular, moments like Ford's weeping meltdown after riding in the GT40 race car -- as the reason he wanted to do the movie.