Two and a half hours of runtime and a tried-and-tested way of telling stories in sports, Le Mans ’66 somehow dodges these two pitfalls to weave a thrilling narrative of two companies and their quest for dominance built on the solid foundations of their two lead actors.
Ken Miles (Christian Bale) is a maverick driver who isn’t particularly enthralled about sticking to the rules outside of the racing track while Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is the good boy Texan car designer who is also one of the few Americans who has ever won the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race.
Rather than framing it as a battle between two automobile giants as the title might suggest, the rivalry between the two companies is only the introduction to the more intricate rivalry between the rogue Miles and the more disciplined yet treacherous corporate world – perfectly symbolized by Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) – even as they try to accomplish the same goal.
The story is beefed up by a combination of race sequences that have been executed with exquisite skill and the soundtrack that accompanies it.
The movie offers us a solid emotional story arc for both Miles and Shelby – showcasing a real friendship that exists there, filled with mutual respect, loyalty and the occasional throwing of a wrench at each other. Christian Bale stands out as the better of the two main actors (especially with his dialogue delivery) painting a more vivid picture of the man he portrays on screen and doing more in general with his character than Matt Damon does with his. That is, of course, not to say Damon does a bad job – Bale is just a shade better.
The story is beefed up by a combination of race sequences that have been executed with exquisite skill and the soundtrack that accompanies it. The screenplay must be given a special mention for making sure that despite the title seemingly suggesting a racing battle between the two companies, the focus remains on showing the real fight between bureaucracy and genius.
The movie does delve into some cliches that come with a racing movie including drivers trying to talk to each other over roaring engines, some questionable racing etiquette and the usual slight manipulation of historical fact. But by and large, this is a movie that definitely should not be missed.
Rating – 4/5
Last modified: 26th November 2019