Le Mans ‘66 is a film with two strong male leads and two titles to show for it; it is James Mangold’s latest feature, following the success of Logan . Based on the true story of the Ford Motor Company in the lead up to the Les Mans 24-hour racing competition, where Ferrari appear undefeatable. In an attempt to break this winning streak, car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) teams up with driver Ken Miles (Christain Bale).
The above synopsis alongside the film’s trailer sells Le Mans ‘66 as just another car racing film, one that follows the track paved by the likes of the Fast and Furious franchise, Rush and Senna. If you came for the cars, you won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of tire screeching, gear crunching and even some explosions that will give most petrol heads what they desire. The use of low-level cinematography immerses us into the driver’s seat until it’s almost motion sickness-inducing. The purposive sound design makes the cinema shake and cuts into your core.
The film is driving towards the lucrative Les Mans race, yet we must endure two-thirds of the film until the race begins. Before that, the playtime feels drawn out and extended as we prevail through the business scenes showcasing the corporate side of the race. Although notably, the script is well balanced with plenty of witty lines and moments of comedy which attempts to combat this. However, it is the dedication to this side of the biographical tale where the film detours from its racing car-biopic predecessors.
From the get-go, Le Mans ‘66is a landscape compiled solely of white men in suits talking about car sales. For all the film attempts to highlight that the exclusion of gender and race is simply reflective of the time and therefore justified, it is the true underlying core message of working against ‘the man’ that anyone can relate to. Our main protagonists never appear concerned with profits or even winning. Instead, it is a simple shared passion to build and race that motivates them. It’s defiance against the capitalist regimes, to fight for the creative right in the face of the very corporations that control them.
Whilst it offers us two titles (the film is known internationally as Ford v Ferrari), neither really encapsulate the true motive of the film. Over its course, the understanding becomes clear that it is not really about the corporations of Ford or Ferrari, nor the winner of the Les Mans race; simply two men creating in the shadows of these corporations.
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