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Spalding's Gavin Miller reviews Le Mans 66




FILM REVIEW: LE MANS ‘66 (12A) SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: CHRISTIAN BALE, MATT DAMON, TRACY LETTS, ON BERNTHAL, CAITRIONA BALFE, JOSH LUCAS, RAY McKINNON, NOAH JUPE & REMO GIRONE

RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 32 MINS DIRECTOR: JAMES MANGOLD

Matt Damon and Christan Bale star in Le Mans 66 (22103441)
Matt Damon and Christan Bale star in Le Mans 66 (22103441)

This based-on-true-events racing drama climbs onto the movie podium with a 1-2-3 from its leading stars – which pulls it through its bloated run time.

Said stars are Christian Bale’s high-octane British driver Ken Miles, Matt Damon’s American car designer Carroll Shelby and Tracy Letts as Ford car magnate Henry Ford II.

With Ford’s sales on the decline, Jon Bernthal’s (TV series The Punisher) vice president Lee Iacocca suggests they purchase the cash-strapped Ferrari – which has been dominating the French-based 24 hour Le Mans race for the past few years – to modernise the image of the legendary car manufacturer.

But when Ferrari decline and use Ford to get a better offer from Fiat, the pig-headed Ford II declares ‘war’ on their Italian opposition and vows to make a race car superior to theirs.

This leads to Ford headhunting the services of Shelby – who in turn recommends the articulate, but hot-tempered, Miles to be lead racer for the team – as the two car giants do battle.

But the only problem is Miles doesn’t suit the image of Ford and he, and Shelby, have to battle corporate interference – usually in the form of Josh Lucas’ annoying senior executive Leo Beebe – as well as the law of physics to try and pull this off.

Which leads to Miles being axed for the 1965 Le Mans race, before the massive failure sees him reinstated with a more superior and revolutionary vehicle for ’66.

And mainly due to the British charm of Bale’s Miles (which admittedly does grate a touch after a while), his chemistry with Damon’s Shelby, and a great turn from Letts, this is always intriguingly watchable – even though it sometimes runs out of gas from some intermittently unnecessary padding.

But acclaimed director James Mangold (Logan) for the most part does the story justice as it provides a compelling story – that just has that little something missing to make it great like Miles and Shelby were.

Keeping it as its ‘far sexier’ original title of Ford v Ferrari would have been a good place to start though.

But it still definitely takes the chequered flag – despite not taking it as convincingly as it should have – and could be best described as a very good ‘Dad’ movie.

Rating: 3.5/5 Gavin Miller


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