Film Review: Le Mans ’66 (Ford V Ferarri)

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Ford Focus

Whatever you want to call it – Ford Vs Ferrari, or Le Mans ’66 as it’s been rebranded in the UK to add a little continental sophistication and specificity to the main event, James Mangold’s racing drama is the kind of glossy, star-driven, er, vehicle, that used to be Hollywood’s bread and butter, but these days is a rarity because fucking idiots like you have stopped going to the cinema for the sake of it, or because you like certain actors, and have instead opted to consume most of your adult orientated stories on Netflix and the like.

That’s right, because of your imbecilic patronage of superhero movies and franchise flotsam, this rock solid studio fare, resplendent with great performances, melodramatic seasoning, and practical action (augmented with CGI), is nostalgic in more ways than one. Fortunately, Mangold hasn’t just replicated the tone, structure and aesthetic of these flicks, he’s reproduced the quality too. Le Mans ’66 is a two-and-a-half-hour movie that, unlike Ford’s prototype racer, never drags.

Key to its success, other than the on-point pacing, excellent production values, and meticulous staging, are two warm and engaging performances from leads Matt Damon and Christian Bale. As Carroll Shelby, the former brings a little all-American can-do spirit to the role of the former racer, grounded by heart problems, who accepts the Ford motor company’s challenge to build a Le Mans winning car to beat their hated rivals at Ferrari, after Ferrari himself calls Henry Ford II, a fat Henry Ford wannabe.

Bale, as Midlands émigré Ken Miles – who thanks to a screenplay by Jez Butterworth, spends the movie peppering his speech with phrases like “face like a smacked arse”, is the headstrong but likeable driver whose independence of mind and freedom of spirit clashes with the corporate mentality of the sponsoring car manufacturer.

In fact, in this movie released under the 20th Century Fox banner after its acquisition by Disney, the recurrent theme is that of the team of industry professionals, working under experienced leadership, fighting off the imbecilic and misguided directives of the parent company whose interests are crass and commercial, in stark opposition to those who love the craft and essence of the thing they seek to perfect.

You probably won’t see Le Mans ’66, because you don’t pay for this sort of thing anymore, but you should because, like the best crowd pleasers, it’s fundamentally about the ultimate synergy between humanity and technology, which at its best, creates beauty. Thrilling, heartfelt stuff.

Directed by: James Mangold

Country: US

Year: 2019

Running Time: 152 mins

Certificate: 12A for corporate interference, a lawn fight, and sticking it to the Italians.

4 Responses

  1. LB Melman says:

    While I enjoy reading your reviews and generally agree with your opinions, I think you are way off with your blanket disdain for Netflix viewers and people who avoid going to theaters. Speaking for myself and many others who feel the same way, the reason I don’t go to theaters anymore(since about 10 years ago with rare exceptions) is that too many rude and uncivilized people have ruined the experience by using their phones or generally just behaving badly during the movie. I’d gladly pay full ticket price to see a movie like Ford v Ferrari at home and avoid the unpleasantness of modern movie-going.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      It was a tongue in cheek remark, but there is a more serious point. You will have to hope that Netflix, or whatever subscription service you use, make a movie like Ford V Ferrari, because if no one goes to the cinema, movies like it will not be made, and the inevitable end point is that cinemas become places where you only see franchise films, remakes and reboots, because they carry the least risk. Then cinema eats itself and dies. Said four quadrant blockbusters, as it happens, attract the largest crowds so carry with them the greatest risk of disruptive audience members.

      You’re right about audience behaviour, it’s terrible – but I’d argue that the problem is that people don’t understand the etiquette of the cinema anymore – they import their habits from home where they regularly talk, check their phones, comment out loud, and so on. Cinema used to be sanctuary from that (sometimes) but now home cinema’s stolen the audience (and soon all the content). My fear for the future is that unless you’re watching alone, this will become the norm when watching movies with people at home via streaming services; an environment where there’s not even a general understanding that when you watch communally, you don’t talk and just concentrate. It’s the filmmakers I feel sorry for – people who put their time into creating stories designed to watched closely – attentively – who because of technological changes that have changed the marketplace and made what used to be a good value for money night out relatively expensive, will know their work will never been experienced theatrically, i.e. in the environment that was created to best concentrate its affects.

      You could argue that taking the box office out of it may change what’s made – that filmmakers will take risks because they have a guaranteed audience, and that might be the flip side of the coin, but if no one’s paying attention because they’re talking to each other with the content in the background, then the nature of what’s created will also change, and not for the better.

      • RICKY J ROBERSON says:

        You’d argue that people “don’t understand the etiquette”. I would argue that they understand the etiquette perfectly well and instead couldn’t care less about etiquette that makes others feel comfortable.

        Gated communities and a locked front door and streaming video are the future of cinema. Welcome to the 21st Century.

        • Ed Whitfield says:

          If those people stay at home, I’m all for that. I’ll quite happily remain in the cinema without them until the last one closes.