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Movie Review: Le Mans ’66

One hell of a journey, whether you like cars or not

Directed by James Mangold    |    Released 2019    |    Runtime: 2h 32mins

Director James Mangold (Logan) shines the light on the true story of how American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battled the corporate bodies in order to build Ford’s first revolutionary race car. The goal? To beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le mans in 1966. The film brings two of the best talents to the screen with Matt Damon (The Martian) and Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) taking the lead as Shelby and Miles. Along with a host of co-stars, Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), John Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Tracy Letts (The Big Short), and Josh Lucas (Hulk)bringing the drama fuelled biopic together.

© 20th Century Fox

There’s a lot to like about Le Mans ’66. Firstly, it’s the performances, that being the natural, radiating chemistry between Bale and Damon as they depict Shelby and Miles’ brimming bromance. No doubt a likeable duo in the first place, the pair have brought the men behind the real-life story to the screen with a bang. Miles is a mouthy, almost aggressive and overly-opinionated Brummie engineer and driver, whilst Shelby is the polar opposite – the slick, stylish one who can charm away with his Texas words. Their common ground is in their love for cars and their passion to complete the project to the best standard and spec. A standout moment in the film is where this passion manifests into conflict and the two battle it out on the front lawn like children, sending sunglasses, bread and ice-cream flying through the air. Their energy is hilarious and the moment offers a lot of laughs, but the most heart-warming takeaway is the realisation that they shouldn’t have been fighting each other, but instead, teaming up to take on the corporate challenges ahead.

© 20th Century Fox

Their key co-stars include the Ford team who supervise the pair and dictate orders which come from the man upstairs (Ford), with Bernthal representing polished bureaucracy and Lucas offering an antagonistic, smarmy and back-stabbing rivalry. The Ford pair represent the direct challenge to our heroes; creativity vs corporate conflicts. Whilst Miles and Shelby pour their passion and dreams into the project, the men in suits are solely there for the marketing and publicity requirements, showing little to no care about what it means to make and drive a race car, but taking the safest actions to meet company objectives.

© 20th Century Fox

The final act of the film becomes even more enjoyable, as Director Mangold knows how to get audiences’ hearts racing. This is where it doesn’t take its foot off the gas, featuring electric visuals and impressive sound editing. The precision in filming the internal and external shots of the racer and our driver, Miles, is second to none. It almost feels visceral; you feel every harsh turn, shift in gear and rev, and you’ll be as tense and determined as Miles is in the driver seat. Le Mans is one hell of a journey and the idea of enduring a race that’s 24 hours long is terrifying, but the film certainly highlights that for some, it’s a dream come true. With a vigorous soundtrack accompanying the unforgiving sounds of the Ford racer as its gears crunch and tyres burn, Le Mans 66 doesn’t shy away from bringing the brutality of the race to our homes, leaving you biting your nails and incessantly hoping that your hero will not only win, but make it out of there alive.

As the film concludes, it builds even more on its emotional undertone and delivers a final knee-jerking response. If, like us, you’re unfamiliar with the true story then you can expect to be left feeling both admiration and a sense of hollowness. Le Mans ‘66 may have just turned our heads when it comes to sports dramas.

SB Rating = 4 / 5

What do you think?

Written by Juliette Perks

If Jules isn’t watching movies, she’s listening to them. She loves movie scores, binge-watching content, seeking out hidden gems in foreign cinema, and her passion for Nolan, Tarantino and Fincher is not to be trifled with. She holds a masters degree in Film & Television Aesthetics.


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