Le Mans '66 Film Review

★★★★

Director: #JamesMangold

Starring: #ChristianBale, #MattDamon, #JoshLucas, #TracyBetts, #JonBernthal and #CatrionaBalfe

Film Review by: #BrianPenn

We might still bask in the glow of Lewis Hamilton's sixth Formula 1 World Title; but who remembers British driver Ken Miles? Le Mans '66 provides the answer in this sprawling tale of brinkmanship and ambition. When a proposed merger between Ford and Ferrari falls through, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) decides to take revenge on the racetrack.


Ford employ designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to build a car that might defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. Shelby turns to driver and engineer Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to test the new prototype. However Miles, a down to earth Brummie has rattled numerous cages at Ford. Newly appointed race director Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) is adamant he wants Miles out of the picture. Shelby is nevertheless convinced and sets out to persuade the Chairman. Henry Ford II agrees to let Miles compete at Le Mans provided he wins the event precursor at Daytona.


This story is essentially rule maker versus maverick; the reliability of Ford against the raw nerve of Ken Miles. An era when constructors were dependant on great drivers to get the most out of their engines; often at the risk of serious injury or even death. Above it all are Ford and Ferrari; posturing corporate beasts desperate for supremacy.


An engrossing narrative does however take some time to fully unwind; while the premise is established early on it took around 100 minutes to reach the race itself. When it does finally arrive the action sequences are spectacular and brutally realistic. Slick 60s styling give the film a tremendous aura and sense of time and place. Whilst the editing could have been slightly sharper, the visuals are a dazzling combination of sound and colour. The only way to see this film is on the biggest screen you can find. Just let the surround sound take over and it becomes compulsive viewing.


Bale and Damon are both in sparkling form and share an obvious rapport on screen. It naturally shows when two leading actors get along and makes for a much better film. We learn more about Miles' singular personality and how a force of nature left an indelible mark on Le Mans. It seems curious that his profile has largely slipped from public view. But he can no longer be the forgotten hero of British motor racing; Miles should now take his rightful place alongside other legends of the sport.