Matt Damon and Christian Bale are on sparky form in this retelling of the Ford v Ferrari battle for racing dominance

Slick, thrilling and saturated with vivid hues and 60s can-do optimism, Le Mans ’66, James Mangold’s follow-up to Logan, is a precision-tooled machine of a movie. A pedal-to-the-metal dash through the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari and their tussle for dominance at the Le Mans endurance race, the film weathers its two-and-a-half-hour running time easily, even as it navigates a cheerfully formulaic sports movie structure.

What soups up the story is a combination of the efficiently executed race sequences (the gear-crunching, tyre-melting sound design deserves plaudits) and a screenplay by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller, which downplays the competition between the two motor companies and instead frames it as a clash between the mavericks and the man. In the former category are car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). In the latter are the cynical, suited company men of Ford, all shiny smiles and expensively tailored treachery; men who view the rough, instinctive genius of someone like Miles as a threat to the integrity of the brand.

Christian Bale, on winning form Le Mans ’66. Photograph: Allstar/20th Century Fox (source: The Guardian)

I wasn’t entirely persuaded by the attempt to evoke a kind of spiritual symbiosis between man and machine that kicks in at around 7,000rpm. However, a final change of pace, which echoes that of the pivotal race, brings an unexpectedly pensive quality to the film as it crosses the finish line.


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