Start your engines because Le Mans ’66 (or Ford v Ferrari) is an absolute belter from start to finish. James Mangold has managed to create a film so good that it won’t matter if you have any interest in either Ford or Ferrari. There is also no need to even really know what Le Mans actually is. In fact it doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about cars at all. Le Mans ’66 is generally just a fantastic film which oozes confidence from the director and its two major stars. Matt Damon and Christian Bale each put in strong performances and seem to be loving every single moment.
Le Mans ’66 is the tale about American former racer and now car designer Carroll Shelby who is hired by Ford to build a race car that can challenge Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966. Alongside temperamental driver Ken Miles, Shelby must battle corporate interference and the laws of physics to build a winning car.
There is nothing new to Le Mans ’66, it is all very paint by numbers as far as the format goes. It offers little to get excited about as far as biography drama films go. Sometimes it is very predictable and cliche (even an evil bad guy), which makes it even more surprising that it plays so well. The extended runtime never drags and by the end you could watch more of the Damon/Bale dynamic and the incredible race scenes on an endless loop.
Technically Le Mans ’66 is a joy to behold. The VFX and stunt work are some of the best on offer. The race scenes are particularly well planned out and directed. The sound mix is also note worthy. If given the chance, watch with the best possible set up you can find. The Dolby atmos mix will give you chills. Overall James Mangold should get huge credit for a making a movie that works so well on many levels. He is clearly a director with vision and knew exactly the kind of movie he wanted to make.
The cast are all excellent. Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal (nice to see him in a leading role), Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe and Ray McKinnon are all well cast, but it is Matt Damon as Carrol Shelby and Christian Bale’s Ken Miles that really steal the movie. The back and forth dialogue and friendship between the two of them is the real core of movie. Once invested in the two of them, the film has a hold of you.
Le Mans ’66 is a real crowd pleaser; interesting, thrilling, exciting, funny and ultimately heartbreaking. Up there with this year’s very best and deserves to be in conversation when award season starts to roll around. Not a film just for petrol heads, this works for everyone. A real double header of great acting and exciting action, a real treat.
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
Cast: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe