I know nothing about cars. I mean nothing. If someone was to ask me what kind of car my dad drove, I’d turn around and say to them “a black one”. So, it could be assumed that director, James Mangold’s new film ‘Ford V Ferrari’ or ‘Le Mans ’66’ depending on what side of the Atlantic you’re on, is not aimed at me in any way. Well, you’d be wrong about that.
The first major pro when it comes to this film is just how basic it is at its core. In the 1970s Rocky was praised for its simplicity and excellent writing. This is because deep down it is simply a brilliantly executed underdog story. Forty years later, it feels as if Mangold and the crew cracked that again, but with racing cars. The film follows a time in the 1960s that Ford wanted to get into racing to boost the brand appeal and smash Ferrari, the company they tried to perform a merger with, at their own game. Henry Ford hires a guy called Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to build him the best racing car money can buy. They get to work and hire an off the hinge’s British driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale)
Bale and Damon are the films dynamic duo, there would really be no film without them. Damon brings a solid lead performance to the fray with the cool-headed and smart Shelby, this is all in comparison to Bale’s Miles, who the film is trying to really make shine as much as possible. Damon almost cools the jets slightly to let him shine even more. But even without him cooling off, Bale is outstanding and reminiscent of The Fighter, from mega specific English accent to the presence he brings to the screen. He will be going for wins but at the very least the man deserves a nomination for the carrying he brings to the film.
His relationship with his son, Peter (Noah Jupe) is the crux of the film. You can’t have an underdog without the family in the background and that’s what Jupe provides in spades, a kid obsessed with dad. Bale just commands the screen and goes off the wire but Jupe is there to ground him and stop him just before he gets his teeth into the scenery, an issue I have with Bale a lot of the time.
Technically the film excels too, Mangold really knows how to bring you into the action on the screen. You’re immersed in the sights and sounds of the Le Man’s raceway in France. The film is so vivid you feel as if you’re in the cockpit. This was just in a standard screening too, where the surrounds really get a workout. I couldn’t imagine seeing this in something like IMAX, it could maybe give you travel sickness from the speeds you’re travelling at. The cinematography is quite simply stunning. The film has an authentic 1960s feel to it that very few films manage to capture when they aim for that point in time. You feel sucked in by every aspect and captivated by the drama on-screen, basically, it is just a really good movie.
There is a heart to ‘Le Mans ’66’ that you get maybe once or twice a year. There is something pure and simple about it, yet it still engages and provides a great journey for the viewer with some crazy good performances and racing sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll find lots to enjoy here even if you have no love for cars, it is super-duper accessible for any audience member. Which is saying something considering how much jargon and odd words these people use to describe their cars.
Le Mans ’66 opens in UK cinemas November 15 and Ford V Ferrari opens in US cinemas the same day. This is because they’re the exact same film.