I have been trying to find time to see this film for several weeks, and finally I managed to get to a showing this week. Going in I knew it was about Le Mans and how Ford tried to overcome Ferrari who had a stranglehold on the legendary 24 hour Le Mans race.
First off, this film’s title is Le Mans ’66 in the UK, and its “Ford V Ferrari” in the US, who knows what it’s called in your local area if it’s not one of those titles. Weirdly, whilst both of those titles do relate to some parts of this film, it is not what the film’s about. This film is about two men, and their passion for motor sport driving their desire to make the best car they possibly could. Ford are represented as a necessary evil, the huge conglomerate that enabled this pipe dream to become a reality.
While Carroll Shelby is a pretty well-known name, I must admit I knew very little if anything about Ken Miles. Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby, and he gives the best performance I have seen from him. He comes across as a man who is from the same background as Ken Miles but is now finding himself having to learn to cope in the suited-up hallways of the bureaucrats in power at big companies like Ford. His chemistry with Christian Bale in the role of Ken Miles is the fuel that keeps this film going.
At this point I think it’s hard to argue against the idea that Christian Bale is one of the best actors of all time. His career is littered with excellent performances and this is right up there with the best of them. Matt Damon is very good throughout this film, but Bale steals every scene and somehow, despite being a very recognisable actor, completely disappears and becomes Ken Miles. Early on the tone of the character is set and learning this story about the men behind the iconic Ford GT40, a car that made Ford cool.
The film clips along at a good pace, and it covers a lot of ground in its two and a half hour run time. All the characters in the film have their own dynamics with the main characters, and Bale’s dynamic with his son is one of the most believable and enjoyable Parent/child relationships I have seen in a while. Youngster Noah Jupe holds his own in scenes with these huge name actors, and in some scenes, there is real emotion being displayed and he is right there with them.
Le Mans ’66 may seem a bit unapproachable for people who have no interest in motor racing or cars at all, but this isn’t about that. This, like most great films, is about human connections and passion. We all have passion for something, and this film displays people who are devoted to something they really care about. On top of that, the interactions between all the people on screen feel real.
Director James Mangold was a name I knew of and didn’t think had top tier potential a few years ago. That is no longer the case as he has shown a new level of maturity as a film maker with this film following up the incredible Logan. He is showing he can pull some monster performances from hugely talented actors and package them in entertaining packages whilst also not shying away from sad and difficult topics.
I went into this film with quite high expectations, and it surpassed them. That is a rare thing, and credit to all involved for making Le Mans ’66 such a great time. My only gripes with the film are the run time, which does feel a little indulgent at over two and half hours with the story they were trying to tell. There is also one character who started to grate on me in a “Is this guy just a dick and nothing more” way, but not enough to really detract from the film overall. If you enjoy cinema at all, I have no doubt you will enjoy this film.
Good: Astounding performances all round, Bale driving straight into a very congested best actor race this year. Great dynamics with all characters and well-done racing scenes.
Bad: Not much, a one note brown nosing character and a run time that made me check my watch a few times.
9/10 – Add it to the Best Picture List already.