Petrol-fuelled race drama is an absolute gas (Le Mans ’66 review)

After playing Dick Chaney in Vice, Christian Bale has now lost all that weight to star alongside Matt Damon in a film about racing. You’ve gotta love Bale for his diversity in choosing projects, but he clearly has a keen eye for greatness because this film, which sports some phenomenal racing sequences, is absolutely fantastic.

Le Mans ’66 (A.K.A Ford VS Ferrari) tells the story of Carroll Shelby as he is enlisted by Ford Motors to build a car that will beat Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Shelby, an American car designer, enlists Ken Miles, a British professional race car driver, as his driver, and together the two of them will spill some serious petrol trying to make that dream a reality. The drama weaves between this duo, the dynamics of Ken’s family, the Ford committee and Ferrari’s Italian offices, all while maintaining the momentum of a real race.

Unsurprisingly, the duo at the top of this project are phenomenal. Matt Damon is solid and adds gravitas to the role of Shelby, but it’s Bale that absolutely steals the show as Miles. This film is hilarious in places, and much of the laughs come from the Birmingham-based colloquialisms that Bale spouts throughout the film. The film also stars Tracy Letts and Jon Bernthal as the CEO and Vice-President of Ford respectively, and Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe as Miles’s wife and son.

This film sports some of the most stunning racing sequences since Rush. The sound design and cinematography work during these extended scenes is staggering, and the thrills and excitement truly make you feel like you’re there in the car with Bale. The camera swoops in and out of the cars with such pace that digital trickery had to be involved, but you never can tell what’s real and what’s not. This film cost almost $100million to make, but every penny of that can be seen on screen with fantastic practical car effects and some brilliantly realistic CGI work.

With a pounding rock score from Marco Beltrami, the action-filled momentum of the film is maintained until the credits. However, what is most surprising is that the slower, more emotional moments of this film are equally satisfying. Throughout the film, especially during moments with Ken’s family, there are some really heartfelt scenes, and the final one was an absolute kicker that did make me shed a tear.

Overall, Le Mans ’66 is a brilliantly exciting, charming and positive film. It’s exactly what you want from a night at the cinema, filled with laughs, emotions and some unbelievably car action.

5 stars 5

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