Le Mans '66
- James Mottram
- 9 October 2019
LFF 2019: Ford takes on Ferrari in this effective and energetic biopic teaming Christian Bale and Matt Damon
Titled Ford v Ferrari in America, that's a slightly more to-the-point description of James Mangold's latest than its European counterpart, Le Mans '66. After all, this is the story of how the American car giant took on the sleek racing elegance of Italy's Enzo Ferrari. As auto magnate Henry Ford II says as he surveys the car factories that provided the bulk of US WWII bombers, 'This isn't the first time Ford has gone to war in Europe.'
As jingoistic as that sounds, it's really the story of how two outliers, the British-born mechanic/driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and maverick American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), teamed up with Ford in an attempt to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, the French 24-hour endurance race that Ferrari had largely dominated from 1958. Ford II (Tracy Letts), son of the legendary industrialist, is desperate to trounce Ferrari (Remo Girone) after a business deal goes sour.
When Jon Bernthal's wide-eyed Ford executive suggests taking on Ferrari at Le Mans, Miles and Shelby are brought on board – though Josh Lucas's fellow exec takes an instant dislike to Miles, making the task that much harder. Obsession and daring become big themes, as these petrol-heads tinker with and test-run a Ford-built car, with Miles racing the tracks to prove his worth to the Ford top brass.
Mangold, who previously collaborated with Bale on the western 3:10 to Yuma, directs the race scenes with a thrilling energy. Co-written by siblings Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow) and Machine Gun Preacher's Jason Keller, the script doesn't always purr: scenes with Miles and his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe from TV's Outlander) are uneven and misplaced. But with the one-two punch of the finale, it's an effective and emotional story about dreamers who risked it all.
Screening on Thu 10, Fri 11 and Sat 12 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. General release from Fri 15 Nov.