DREAM TEAM: Matt Damon (left) and Christian Bale in Le Mans '66.

Film review: Le Mans ’66

When it comes to films about motor racing, it’s often hard for the audience to connect with what they are seeing.

If you think of other sporting offerings, be it the Rocky films, Invictus or one of the many American football movies, it’s often easy to relate to what you’re viewing.

In the case of motorsport, the car puts a wedge between you and the individual as success or failure is often out of the driver’s hands.

In Le Mans ’66, which is the story of the legendary battle between two titans of the motor industry in Ford and Ferrari, those barriers are nicely ripped down.

At roughly two-and-a-half hours long, you may think that this is a film that will turn off anybody not interested in the sport.

That may be true for some, but Matt Damon and Christian Bale do their very best to keep you interested for the duration.

Damon stars as Carroll Shelby, a former winner of the famed Le Mans 24-hour race, who is no longer able to drive competitively due to a heart condition.

He’s hired by Henry Ford II (a larger than life Tracy Letts) to help halt Ford’s sales slump by way of making the brand exciting again – and what better way than re-focusing on fast cars and winning Le Mans?

At least that is what the Ford marketing team, headed up by Jon Bernthal’s Lee Iacocca, want him to achieve.

With Ferrari dominant, Shelby is given the seemingly impossible task of delivering a winning car in a 90-day window.

This is where Bale’s Ken Miles, an eccentric English racer comes in. He’s Shelby’s number one choice to drive the (now famed) GT40, but his image and brash nature rub up Ford’s bigwigs the wrong way, especially Josh Lucas’ weasel-like Leo Beebe.

While Shelby is undoubtably the big name, it’s Miles who is the heart of Le Mans ’66.

His wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and son Peter (Noah Jupe) get plenty of screen time and you’ll feel every bump of Ken’s journey to Le Mans while also feeling that connection that is normally lacking.

The last hour of proceedings are all about the Le Mans race of 1966, which I enjoyed. But it’s fair to say that others won’t feel quite as excited about the final act.

There’s much to be admired about this James Mangold-directed offering, with the cinematography outstanding and the performances great across the board.

I would have to concede that a lot of the action is quite predictable, even if you don’t know what happened in what was a golden era of motorsport.

The depiction of Enzo Ferrari as some kind of generic mafia-type pantomime villain was also a little on the nose, give his huge standing in the industry.

But, those issues aside, I’m struggling to think of a better motor racing film.

Known as Ford v Ferrari elsewhere, Le Mans ’66 shines light on the remarkable feats of legendary names in the racing world and does them justice.

Voice Verdict: 7.5/10 (reviwed at Boston Savoy)
+ Damon and Bale both impress
+Letts is hilarious
+ Great racing action for motor sport fans…
– …but maybe too much for casuals
– Enzo Ferrari depiction

Boston’s West End Cinema (Fri, Nov 22 to Thurs, Nov 28)

9.30am (Sat/Sun), 11am (Sat/Sun), noon (Fri, Sat, Sun), 2pm (Fri, Sat, Sun), 3pm (daily), 4.30pm (Thurs), 5pm (Fri-Wed), 6pm (daily), 8pm (daily), 8.45pm (Fri/Sat)

10am (Sat), 1pm (Sat, Sun), 4pm (daily), 7pm (Fri-Tue)

8.25pm (Wed)

9.20pm (Fri-Tue)

1pm (Fri/Wed), 3.30pm (daily), 6pm (daily), 8.30pm (daily)

LE MANS ’66 (12A)
2.15pm (Fri/Sat/Wed), 5.15pm (daily), 8.15pm (daily)

8.20pm (Tue)

THE GOOD LIAR (15) 1.30pm (Friday),
2.35pm (Mon-Thur)

1.20pm (Sat/Sun)

Last Christmas (12A) – 8.45pm (Mon)

Angry Birds 2 (U) – 10.15am (Sat/Sun)

Midway (12A) – 11.30am (Wed)

Midway (12A) – 10am (Wed)

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