James Mangold’s Le Mans ’66 (aka Ford V Ferrari) is a hugely entertaining sports drama which delivers on all levels. Matt Damon and Christian Bale excel as Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, the car designer and driver who join the Ford racing team to take on Ferrari in the prestigious Le Mans race in 1966.
Movies In Focus isn’t a racing aficionado and didn’t know anything about this true-life tale going into Le Mans ’66 but I was fully drawn into the drama. At the centre of the movie is the relationship between Matt Damon’s Shelby and Christian Bale’s Miles. The pair are working at the top of their powers here – Damon is on-point at the all-American designer, while Bale delivers as the salt-of-the-earth British driver. Their chemistry is great and the surprisng thing about Le Mans ’66 is how funny it is. There’s an easy charm to the proceedings which makes the whole thing hugely entertaining. Credit must go to writers Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller for a script which doesn’t get too bogged down in the mechanics of racing (no pun intended).
James Mangold continues to be a director who can move between genres with ease. He’s got the same versatility as Howard Hawks and Richard Donner, a master of all genres who knows how to get the tone just right. His filmography is stacked with such a varied list of movies: Cop Land, Girl Interrupted, Kate And Leopold, Identity, Walk the Line, 3.10 T0 Yuma, Knight and Day, The Wolverine and Logan. What other filmmaker has delivered a list of movies that varied over the last 25 years and managed to make them all good? If he does take the reins of the fifth Indiana Jones movie, then we’ll be in very capable hands.
Le Mans ’66 delivers the dramatic character beats, the humour entertains and the racing sequences are energetic and thrilling. In a time where people are increasingly reluctant to make mid-budget dramas for the big screen, Mangold’s film inspires. With more than $117 million at the US box office and $225 million globally (alongside a slew of awards and nominations), it shows that there’s a thirst for this type of film. Embrace Le Mans ’66 and enjoy seeing two movie stars sharing the screen in this entraining sports drama.