Dir: James Mangold
Starring Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Catriona Balfe
James Mangold’s racing picture is remarkably sluggish for its first hour or more, despite impressive work from both Damon and Bale. The tale of how Henry Ford II decided to revamp his company by entering into the world of designing and building racing cars thankfully picks up some considerable speed in its second half.
Damon is the former driver, now out of the game due to a heart condition, who is recruited to design and build the world’s fastest car, Bale meanwhile is his engineer and, ultimately, the driver who takes on the gruelling 24 hour Le Mans challenge.
Indeed it is only when Damon takes Ford (splendidly and somewhat maliciously played by Letts) out for a spin in said car that the film finally comes to life. After that, via Daytona and Le Mans itself, the film rockets along, with a visceral need for speed, if a rather pedestrian way of catching it. (Mangold could’ve learned a trick or two from Ron Howard’s Rush.) Along the way there’s a good deal of talk of crankshafts and brake pads which often fails to engage.
Although he’s apparently being pushed in the Best Supporting category, it is Bale who dominates the film, especially in its racing sequences, confining Damon – quite literally – to standing on the sidelines.
Very uneven, but it does ultimately satisfy on some levels.
Le Mans ‘66 plays the LFF on 10 & 11 October. For more info go to https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/