Lucy’s rating: ★★★★
Le Mans ’66 might be the most exhilarating film I’ve seen this year, which comes as a surprise. The idea of two big car manufacturers battling it out could run the risk of only appealing to a niche audience, but this film is suitable for petrolheads and film fans alike.
The film follows two main characters, British-born racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and retired racer turned car designer Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) as they work alongside Ford Motor Company to create a racing car to rival the unbeatable Ferrari, and prevent them from going out of business.
Since Ferrari had won Le Mans in six consecutive years, this was not an easy task for the two men. But the formidable presence of Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) and his team wasn’t the only obstacle, as Ford’s racing director Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) is less than impressed by the duo. He sees Shelby as a threat, and Miles as ruining Ford’s public image.
Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is as ruthless as his Italian counterpart, and he puts a lot of pressure on his team to have the company succeed. Whilst developing a Ford to beat Ferrari feels like an impossible task, he’ll stop at nothing to ensure its done, even if he doesn’t fully understand what it takes to build a car for endurance racing.
Le Mans ’66 should be experienced on the biggest, loudest screen you can possibly find, to fully immerse yourself in the action. The Daytona sequence especially had my heart racing, and I found myself very engaged in the race. It’s arguably my favourite moment in the whole film.
The racing sequences are probably what most audiences will flock to the cinema for, and they don’t disappoint. They’re an adrenaline filled crowd pleaser, placing you dangerously close to the action as cars fly around the track at crazy speeds. Expect roars of the engines, excitable crowds, and a few heart stopping crashes.
In addition to this, the much-anticipated Le Mans sequence takes up a huge chunk of the screen time, yet it seems to fly by due to the fact you’re on the edge of your seat. I loved every minute of it, both when the camera takes us track-side and in the driver’s seat.
Whilst I’m full of praise for the high octane racing sequences, particularly the sound and camerawork used to bring it to life, the quieter, more intimate scenes are just as powerful to witness.
The relationship between Ken Miles and his son Peter (Noah Jupe) is particularly heartwarming, and there’s one brilliant scene where Peter draws the Le Mans track and Ken talks him through it, which was a clever way to explain the different sections without completely boring the general audience.
Aesthetically I found the film beautiful too, especially seeing all the pristine racing cars from that era. Despite the fact the audience is obviously encouraged to root for Ford, I’m sure you could forgive me for being captivated by the presence of the Ferraris.
Having said all this, there was one thing that frustrated me about Le Mans ’66. Since the iconic race is all about endurance, and it required two drivers at the time (now three in recent years), it would have been nice to know more about Ken’s driving partner. After all, he also had a big role to play in the race.
I am critical of their decision to essentially omit Denny Hulme (Ben Collins), the New Zealand born driver who helped Ken Miles achieve what he did in the 1966 race. Whilst I understand this is mostly a film about the friendship between Shelby and Miles, some scenes involving Hulme would have been a welcome addition.
Overall, I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining big screen experience, even for someone who finds it difficult to fully engage with the world of motor racing. Whilst not entirely historically accurate, it was an entertaining two and a half hours of cinema, which I really enjoyed.