Le Mans’ 66 Review: Sleek crowd-pleasing drama will take Oscar gold

By James Roulston Mooney Nov 18, 2019

“Out there is the perfect lap….Can you see it?”

‘Le Mans ‘66’, or ‘Ford v Ferrari’ in most countries, brings to the big screen the story of Ford’s victory at Le Mans in 1966, or more specifically, the relationship between driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon).

The film revolves around the pair battling corporate interference and overcoming personal demons to build a revolutionary race car to take on the dominant Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Driven by powerhouse performances from its leading duo as well as meticulous direction from James Mangold, the film has raced into Best Picture contention at the upcoming Oscars.

The acting is superb, with both Bale and Damon providing us with fantastic performances that are dripping with emotion and passion.

Image result for ford vs ferrari

Bale, especially, wins the audience over by bringing Ken Miles’ passion for racing to the big screen, making it feel as though he were Miles with every moment he had on-screen.

Bale successfully burns the image of Miles’ into the heads of those who were unfamiliar with him – the main goal for each actor starring in a biographical picture.

Throughout the film, we grow attached to Miles, who we subsequently root for in races he partakes in.

The more well-known Carroll Shelby is also played brilliantly by Damon in such a way that we feel for and root for him as well throughout the two-and-a-half hours.

The screenplay for the picture, written by Jason Keller, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth is solid, if unspectacular, but the outstanding performances manage to convey the emotion in the lines without trouble.

The writing does, however, downplay the corporate troubles to focus more on Shelby and Miles’ relationship, which works wonders for the film.

The fantastic direction of James Mangold that we have come to know is evident in his new film.

Image result for james mangold ford vs ferrari
Director James Mangold

However, it takes an hour for the film to let it shine, with most of the racing scenes taking place after the hour mark.

Michael Mann was tapped to direct this film and was attached to the project for years, and one must wonder how the film would have turned out if the cinematic giant was still behind the camera.

Mann retained an Executive Producer credit for the film, and one can’t help but feel the Chicago man’s deft touch of wringing tension out of the most mundane situations when you’re watching some of the films riveting sequences.

The camera work in these scenes, coupled with the stellar cinematography of the film, courtesy of esteemed cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, create some of the most gripping, enthralling and beautiful racing scenes in cinema history.

The tension during the scenes can be felt throughout the cinema; something that can’t be replicated with Netflix.

Papamichael’s gorgeous work brings us one of the finest looking films of 2019 with his amazing work.

However that isn’t to discredit Mangold.

A former protege of the late great Milos Forman, he does a great job with the direction, and gives the film the sense of prestige and class it deserves, and reminds us that Logan really was a great movie and not a fluke.

Composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders provide the film with a cool soundtrack to go with its slick cars, which are elevated to a new level with fantastic sound mixing and design, a department that is utilised so well in the film.

The finished product of all this great work is a great racing film about one of the most bittersweet stories in sporting history. People should be racing to the cinemas to see it.

On a wider meta level, the big-budget adult drama has come roaring back thanks to this movie; audiences want smart, adult dramas and they’ve been blessed with one of the years best movies.

Write this film off at your peril; this one is going all the way to to the Oscars.



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