When Le Mans ’66 (otherwise known as Ford v. Ferrari, the superior US title for the movie) was first announced and two of Hollywood’s elite in Matt Damon and Christian Bale were confirmed to lead, I assumed the story would pit these two fantastic actors against one another. But in fact, this is a story of friendship, one which sees Damon play automotive designer Carroll Shelby and Bale as good pal and race car driver Ken Miles, as they try and lead a team of American engineers and designers from Ford to build a race car that can beat the legendary Ferrari.
There is a lot of fun to be had at Le Mans ’66, from the great chemistry of the leads to the adrenaline-fuelled car sequences, expertly directed by James Mangold (Logan) but the film islet down by an overlong run time and a script which feels frustratingly by-the-numbers.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale are what really make this film work. There characters couldn’t be more different, Damon’s charming and well respected whilst Bale (who lost 70 pounds for the role following his work earlier this year in Vice) is a hot-head and not liked by most, but they
bounce off each other with ease and their bond is the core to this story. Both are great fun to watch, with a stand out scene being an hilarious fight between the two in the front garden.
The film is a lot more light-hearted than I expected. This is very much a movie the whole family can get on board with, but it does sometimes come across as a little too cheesy in my eyes. I wish it took more risks in its storytelling approach too, as although this is a true story, I was unfamiliar with the events yet could almost predict every moment before it had happened. The script by Jez & John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow, Spectre) and Jason Keller (Escape Plan) stretches out further than it needs too, with the film clocking in at a lengthy 2 and a half hours.
Nevertheless, it’s the racing sequences you come for and they are breath-taking to behold. Beautifully directed by Mangold, you always have a very clear picture of the cars and the race itself and they are stunning to watch on the big screen. The sound design is fantastic and the actual Le Mans race in the third act delivers plenty of thrills and surprises.
It probably won’t win any awards outside of possible technical achievements but Le Mans ’66 is an immensely enjoyable ride and has its heart well and truly in the right place. Come for the fast cars, stay for its likeable characters.
Verdict: Long and formulaic but anchored by two great lead performances and some spectacular race car action, Le Mans 66 is a rousing good time. Not quite a first-place finish, but certainly makes the podium.
Best Moment: The titular race
Le Mans ’66 is out Friday 15th November.
Tickets are now on sale at https://www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/hereford/217/ (Under Advanced Dates)