21st Nov2019

‘Le Mans ’66 (aka Ford vs. Ferrari)’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Tracy Letts, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, Jack McMullen, Corrado Invernizzi, Joe Williamson, Ian Harding, Christopher Darga | Written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller | Directed by James Mangold


Le Mans ‘66 fires on all cylinders at the highest rate and won’t let you go until you get to the finish line. The chemistry between Matt Damon and Christian Bale is both captivating and heartwarming, with both characters highlights of the film.

We’re in the 60’s: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles are tasked to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. From the very start we are thrust into the heart of a driver, as someone who’s never found any intrigue in racing or any sense of thrill through watching motorsports, or any films on the subject for that matter. I couldn’t help but be swept up in the world of a driver and be thrown right into the passenger seat for the ride.

In his first film since the much acclaimed Logan, James Mangold has found a bond in brotherhood, the kind that would have them joking and smiling one moment and throwing spanners at each other the next. It’s these two lead characters and their chemistry that drives the film all the way to the finish line and leaves you smiling for the whole drive.

These characters are brash and bold, men’s men, in a time where it was devilishly cool to be one. Sporting flash cars, 60’s fashion and a Texas accent, Damon wonderfully captures Carroll Shelby. Opposite him is the charming Brit, Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale. For me it’s through Bale the film shines the brightest, it’s his charm and wit that left me smiling every time the British slang bounced off his tongue. The chemistry between him and his wife, played by Caitriona Balfe, also works wonders on screen, and we buy into everything these characters do.

Mangold manages to showcase racing like we’ve never seen it before. It’s fast, furious and everything the thrill of the race should be. There was also a great show of art versus corporate control, in a way. The suit wearing pencil pushers of Ford try everything they can to intervene with Shelby’s ideas on a perfect race car. It’s the same debate we have right now in Hollywood, and it’s landed in our lap at the perfect time. Too many cooks do spoil the broth after all. It’s in the battles between Shelby and the higher arc of Ford that feels so relevant in the film world today, with studios getting involved in every department that a director wants to control. At the end of the day, what are we getting? A corporate controlled product that is set to please the masses? Or can a visionary artists create the exact product they dreamed? Whether it’s films or cars, the story told in Le Mans ‘66 represents something we see in art today, and it helped me connect to the film that little bit more.

The film is also likely to strike gold in terms of nominations at the oscars, whether it will take any gold home is another question, but it’s the kind of feel good, exciting drama the academy loves. They also love a safe bet and Le Mans ‘66 is just that. It’s fit for anyone to go see and have fun watching these two fine actors on screen.

**** 4/5

Le Mans ‘66 (aka Ford vs. Ferrari) is in cinemas now.


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