Le Mans ’66 – Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Directed by: James Mangold | 152 minutes | action, biography | Actors: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Tracy Letts, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, Jack McMullen, Corrado Invernizzi, Joe Williamson, Ian Harding, Christopher Darga, Shawn Law
During the Formula 1 season, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and all those other speed demons worldwide keep hundreds of millions of enthusiasts glued to the tube. With spectacular overtaking maneuvers, pit stops on the cutting edge and devious team tactics, the races are far from boring. And even though they have lost more often than we are used to in recent years, the most imaginative Formula 1 team is still Ferrari. Since the Italian racing stable with the characteristic red cars made its appearance in Formula 1, a record number of sixteen world titles for constructors has already been won. In the 1960s, the drowsy American car brand Ford decided to take a shot at racing success and thus break the hegemony of Ferrari. We can see that this was quite a challenge in the film ‘Le Mans ’66’ (2019), which was released in some countries under the title ‘Ford vs. Ferrari’ has been released. Not only did a racing car have to be constructed that could approach (or rather exceed) the speeds of the competition, there was also a need to find a suitable driver who fit the bill perfectly.
Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is a highly talented racer who racked up victories in the 1950s and won the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. But his health is failing him and at the insistence of his doctor he stops racing. He soon finds another way to express his passion for motorsport: as a designer and builder of fast cars. The American car company Ford has been building rock-solid means of transport for decades, but they have acquired a bit of a dull image that big boss Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) wants to get rid of. Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), an ambitious marketing manager, comes up with the bright idea of building racing cars, stylish and ‘sexy’ like Ferrari’s, and suggests hiring Shelby to design such a car. Ford also takes the plunge and makes an offer for the ailing Italian car factory despite all the racing successes, but comes home from a cold fair, which only motivates the humiliated Henry even more: a Ford has to be built as soon as possible that will match Ferrari. can beat the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Shelby remembers a top driver to get behind the wheel, the headstrong Briton Ken Miles (Christian Bale), an old comrade in arms who is not easy to steer and sometimes wants to explode. The bosses at Ford doubt this loose cannon is the right man, even if he can race with the best. PR boss Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) in particular prefers to push others forward, much to Shelby’s dismay, who even dares to risk his company to convince management that he is right.
‘Le Mans ’66’ is much more than a racing movie; in fact, the racing scenes are falling – though decently executed; the film won Oscars for film editing and sound editing for a reason – slightly against it if you compare them with, for example, ‘Rush’ (2013), in which they are much more intense. Nevertheless, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is generally the better film, because it is not the matches but the friendship between Shelby and Miles that is central. Damon and Bale represent two ends of the spectrum as actors: the first is always solid but also a bit boring and mechanical, while the Welshman Bale rivals almost all his opponents with his intensity and enthusiasm. In ‘Le Mans ’66’ you can see very clearly how Damon’s level goes up two flights of stairs when he faces Bale. The camaraderie of the gentlemen jumps from the canvas, especially in the scene in which they roll around with each other and have a bag of groceries fighting, and then drink a beer together. If anyone can turn Miles into a team player, it’s got to be Shelby. Bale takes on the role of the fickle and hot-headed Miles, complete with a bold Birmingham accent and with his son Pete (Noah Jupe, one of today’s best child stars) in tow as he scrambles between the race cars. The financial troubles that Miles and his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) face are quickly ignored, but those kinds of slippages are blamed by director James Mangold and his three screenwriters (brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller). ) well made with a nice dose of humor. It is hilarious, for example, when Henry Ford II takes a seat next to Shelby when he goes to test the prototype of the Ford racing car on the track, the bobo almost has a heart attack from the immeasurable speeds and when the car finally comes to a stop only manages to stammer: “I had no idea… If only my father had been allowed to experience this.”
Mangold has quite a few top films to his name, with the highlights of course ‘Walk the Line’ (2005) and ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (2007, also with Christian Bale in one of the lead roles. He may be entitled ‘Le Mans ’66’ Add to that list, because this drama based on true facts is absolutely successful. There are certainly a few things to criticize. the film can be cut to streamline it better, as happens with those fast cars.Apart from Shelby and Miles (and maybe Iacocca) the characters are a bit one-dimensional, especially in the case of Leo Beebe we already feel our water in advance that he is going to thwart things (yes, even if we are not familiar with the history), on the other hand, this film is also very good for non-race car enthusiasts, because the focus is on the friendship between Shelby and Miles – full of ups and downs, humor and struggle, but unconditionally because of their shared memory of the Second World War – and that, thanks to the wonderful acting of both Bale and Damon, bursts from the screen with conviction.