Cert 12A Stars 3
Burn rubber with Christian Bale and Matt Damon as they prevent this fleetingly thrilling motor racing epic from becoming an endurance.
The story is driven by Bale’s loopy performance as a maverick racing driver and war veteran, Ken Miles, and seeing the Batman star screaming ‘giddy up’ in a volatile Brummie accent is a major joy.
He teams up with Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby, a car mechanic and a bit of a cowboy, but not the British sort.
They’re hired by car magnate Henry Ford II who’s determined to build a car capable of beating that produced by rival manufacturer Enzo Ferrari, in the French 24 hour motor race marathon, Le Mans.
It’s 1966 and being an American movie, you’d never know there was an international football tournament taking place in Europe that year.
Although the stereotypical Italians are the competition, the real villain is a duplicitous Ford executive who’s noticeably more camp than not just the drivers, but of Ken’s beer drinking wife.
Director James Mangold has made impressive box office crowd-pleases such as 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, and previously worked with Christian Bale in 2007’s excellent Western remake, 3:10 to Yuma.
It would have been far more interesting had Mangold succeeded in suggesting racing can be akin to a divine experience, and he could have renamed the film ‘Chariots of Fire on wheels’. But the nearest this comes to heavenly is in moving some drivers closer to god.
But beyond loss of life there’s nothing at stake except Ford corporate pride which isn’t something I’m invested in, and as soon as the gorgeous red Ferrari 330 sashayed onto the track I wanted the ‘wrong’ team to win.
Petrol heads may love this macho peeing contest, but in a year of Disney have live action remakes of classic animation, this feels very much like a retread of Pixar’s cartoon Car franchise.