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Le Mans '66 review - nicely revved up | reviews, news & interviews

Le Mans '66 review - nicely revved up

Le Mans '66 review - nicely revved up

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are an entertaining double act at the centre of a real-life motor-racing drama

'It still feels like a bag of squirrels': Christian Bale and Matt Damon ponder car mechanics in 'Le Mans '66'

For a sports movie to work for more than just the fans, it has to have drama off the pitch, track or field, with characters to root for, personal demons, a good underdog. Based on a true story that also involves high-speed danger and tragedy, James Mangold’s Le Mans ‘66 duly obliges.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon – Batman and Bourne if you will – let their hair down as two motor-racing legends, to the extent that the racing drama doubles as a buddy movie. Unlike 2013's Rush, which covered the personal rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, this film sides racers against corporate suits, which is rather refreshing.  

In the Sixties the giant Ford Motor Company is experiencing a dramatic sales slump. The regally aloof Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is persuaded by his marketing department to enhance the firm’s image by challenging the Italian racing titan Ferrari in its dominance of Le Mans, the famed 24-hour race in France. 

Le Mans ;66Ford enlists car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) to build a car that can beat the Ferrari. But when Shelby brings in the maverick, hot-tempered Englishman Ken Miles (Bale) as his No 1 driver – a Brummie whose appraisal of a car might be: “it still feels like a bag of squirrels” – the company men are none too pleased. 

The Ford-Ferrari rivalry is the weakest aspect of the movie, handled with cheap national stereotyping. More interesting is Shelby’s efforts to keep his friend in his job, which includes the film’s funniest scene as he gives Henry II some insight into the guts it takes to be behind the wheel of one of his death traps. 

The racing scenes are incredibly exciting, though that would count for nothing if the characters didn’t engage. Damon offers an old-fashioned, charisma-driven performance – all Stetson, shades and smile; Bale typically immerses himself into another chameleon-like turn, which runs close to caricature but is also very endearing. And together they have a genuinely affable chemistry. Miles’s home life with no-nonsense wife Mollie (Catriona Balfe) and young son adds to the film’s emotional undertow. 

Unlike 'Rush', which covered the personal rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, this film sides racers against corporate suits


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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