Le Mans ’66 (Ford vs Ferrari) – Film Review
Review by Frank L
Directed by James Mangold
Stars: Roberta Sparta, Caitriona Balfe, Christian Bale, Matt Damon
As the title makes plain this is a movie about competition. It is set in 1966 when Henry Ford the second put his mind to the idea that his Ford Motor Company would produce a racing car that would bring an end to the monopoly which the Italian racing car manufacturer Ferrari had enjoyed in the Le Mans 24 hour race. Ferrari was and is the epitome of the ultimate fast car; Ford’s cars were worldwide popular but instant acceleration was not their forte.
The story centres on Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a racing driver with heart issues, and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) an offbeat racing driver who now ekes out a living tinkering with engines. He has forgotten more about the design of racing cars and their engines than the rest of the world will ever know. He is struggling to get by while supporting a loyal wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and a young son Peter (Noah Jupe) who worship him. Through Shelby, Miles is approached by Ford to create the engine to challenge Ferrari. Ford’s deadline is almost impossible but Shelby and Miles set out to meet it.
The story allows full rip to the testosterone competitive instincts of Henry Ford and his executive Lee Iacocca. That creates a series of problems, not least that Miles should not drive one of the Ford cars; then the tactics to be used in the race itself. In comparison to the detailed preparations of the Ford cars, that of Ferrari is given little coverage other than to show them as handsome and well dressed.
Mangold has created a film which of its very essence is high-speed drama, to which he adds dare-devil moments of excitement. It is all portrayed with excellent camera work. He also has a fine “domestic” between Mr and Mrs Miles when she is driving; she demonstrates her anger by showing her unorthodox driving skills which do not comply with the highway code.
This is a film about ‘Toys for Big Boys’ so as a result, Mollie is the sole female role of any substance. Her role is limited to that of wife and mother, the domestic reality of the 1960s for most women but it would have been nice to give her character more substance. Leaving that reservation aside, this movie is not the most introspective but it is certainly entertaining, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.