Le Mans '66

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Le Mans 66
"The film avoids the easy route to Clicheville and stays on the dark side of the road." | Photo: Merrick Morton

The American title is Ford v Ferrari. You wonder in dumb ignorance why change? Le Mans is French for somewhere and no relation to The Wrong Mans, James Corden's TV series. '66 neither dings nor dongs in the Swinging memory of those times. Matt Damon? Christian Bale? Actors at the top of their game. You like? Never better! If they are involved, strap the furniture down. Damon plays a race car designer and Bale a driver. Both have mechanical skills that put the "imp" back into "impressive".

Hold it one pretty minute! What do we have in this store house? A couple of insiders who go to Ford rather than starting their own thing sounds sensible enough but hardly the stuff of legend. Last time fast cars gave the box office a kick up the jacksy was in 1966 when John Frankenheimer made Grand Prix with James Garner and Yves Montand, which covered Formula One the same year that these guys were battling for supremacy in the Le Mans 24 race, although in the new film there is no mention of this.

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It takes courage and something close to risk mismanagement to make a 2.5 hour movie about office politics in Europe. Damon is low key throughout while Bale waits until the final section to allow his emotions full freedom of expression.

The Ford management, headed by Henry II, son of the famous H, is nervous of innovation or anything they don't entirely understand, like the racing circuit and why it makes such an impact on the price of a suburban saloon. To call this business craft vs the art of the dream might be taking it too far out of rationality's happy place. By the halfway stage it's beginning to drag.

As Damon is working like a charm school vet to keep the smoothies in Sales, smiling Bale is winning races. Will their car hang together and break every rule of luck and design and snatch another chequered in torrential rain? At this point, or perhaps even earlier, there is little doubt that the movie belongs to Bale.

If it's too long and too convoluted, director James Mangold can be congratulated on tightening the tension as the hours slip by. The film avoids the easy route to Clicheville and stays on the dark side of the road. The actors refuse the glitter of the limelight in favour of doing their duty to the story. If there are moments of torpor there are others that dig deeper than you expect.

Reviewed on: 15 Nov 2019
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Dramatisation of a friendship that shaped motor racing in the Sixties.

Director: James Mangold

Writer: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller

Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Ray McKinnon, Noah Jupe, JJ Feild, Tracy Letts, Wyatt Nash, Wallace Langham, Ian Harding, Jonathan LaPaglia, Hélène Cardona, Lachlan Buchanan

Year: 2019

Runtime: 152 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

London 2019

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