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Le Mans '66 (IMAX in some cinemas)


Stars: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Tracy Letts, Ray McKinnon, Noah Jupe, Jon Bernthal, JJ Feild, Jonathan LaPaglia

Director: James Mangold

Running longer than a Grand Prix race, and full of artificially contrived drama, this is an account of the rivalry that arose between car-makers Ford and Ferrari after the American firm decided to take on their Italian rivals at the 1966 24-hour Le Mans endurance race.

Ex-racer Carroll Shelby (Damon) is selected to build a car for the job, and hunts out another ex-racer, Englishman Ken Miles (Bale, here looking like the late Pete Postlethwaite), now in his forties, to drive it.

Shelby's been selling cars and Miles fixing them. but both are soon to become intimately involved in one of the world's most glamorous sporting events, in which Ferrari have, to that time, been the dominating force.

Smarmy top Ford executive Beebe (Lucas), however, takes against Miles for some reason, and moves heaven and earth to prevent him driving the car. His attempts are unsuccessful but, once at Le Mans, Beebe tries to stop Miles beating the other two Ford drivers, and by any means possible, including ordering him to slow down - a command Shelby angrily vetoes.

It's hard to believe such a character ever existed, but maybe he was invented in a desperate attempt to to beef up the drama, which is only so-so, apart from the inbuilt excitement of the racing scenes themselves.

Performances are good, Damon and Bale especially, but the film is at least half an hour too long, and its last two scenes could have been jettisoned altogether in favour of end-credit captions.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by efilm.
152 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Nov 2019