Also known as Ford v Ferrari, this is the story of Ford's battle to beat Ferrari at Le Mans. Racing veterans Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) are caught in an up-hill struggle with Ford executives, as they spearhead the development of a car that can go head to head with the Italian racing pedigree.
Based on the book "Go Like Hell" by A. J. Baime, "Logan" director James Mangold tells the story of one of racing's great rivalries. In the early 1960's, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) looked to improve sales by investing in a racing team. But when a deal to purchase Ferrari fell through - resulting in some animosity between Ford and old Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) - the man from Michigan was determined to have his revenge, by winning the Ferrari dominated Le Mans 24 hour race. Now you're probably thinking that a story like this is all about the racing, well you'd be half-way right. There are indeed a lot of scenes featuring some beautiful cars, but there is also a lot more. Mangold intertwines some thrilling races with a very engrossing and human story.
Before we get anywhere near the titular race, we must first learn what this movie is really about...the Shelby Racing team's constant battle with overbearing Ford executives, who attempt to assert control over that which they do not understand. It's a part of the story that's said to have been exaggerated, but that doesn't make it any less relatable, not to mention fun. In Fact, the two main characters' wildly different approaches to dealing with Henry Ford II and his cronies (Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal) is a great source of humour throughout.
Bale and Damon are fantastic as Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, they have excellent chemistry - so much so it's incredible to think they haven't worked together before. The movie's most interesting relationship however, is that of Miles and his family. Both his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and his son Peter (Noah Jupe) love and support Ken, and what he does. But there's that constant worry of the dangers, and all three actors convey that complicated bond perfectly. Jupe especially, given that many of the movie's events are seen through Peter's eyes.
When you eventually do get to the main event, it doesn't disappoint. By shooting it all for real, Mangold is able to capture all the thrill - and the danger - of an actual race. The crashes alone are as spectacular as they are horrifying. But it's good to see that the race scenes don't morph "Le Mans '66" into a solo Christian Bale movie. Damon and the rest of the cast continue to play a significant role as Bale's Miles starts to rack up the errr...miles. Watch out for Ray McKinnon as Shelby's crew chief, Phil Remington, and Jack McMullen as crew member Charlie Agpiou, as they fight to keep things going both on and off the track. Although some artistic licence has been taken, it is impressive to note how closely the script follows the real events. Whilst celebrating the successes, the movie never shies away from the failures or the controversies involved in Ford's battle to beat Ferrari at Le Mans.
With great performances, some beautiful cars, and an epic rivalry, "Le Mans '66" brings racing history to life in a way that's thrilling for racing fans and non-racing fans alike.
If you're interested in "Le Mans '66" or racing in general, you should check out "The 24 Hour War", a fascinating documentary charting the Ford/Ferrari rivalry, available on Netflix.
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