Ford v Ferrari (titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and other territories) is a 2019 American biographical sports drama film directed by James Mangold, and written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller. It stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale, while Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, and Ray McKinnon appear in supporting roles.
The plot follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby and his British driver, Ken Miles, who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari racing team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
In the early stages of the film’s production, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were cast in the starring roles, but those plans fell through. Mangold was then hired in February 2018, and Damon, Bale, and the rest of the cast joined that summer. Filming began in July 2018 in California and lasted a little over two months.
Ford v Ferrari had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019, and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 15, 2019, by 20th Century Fox. The film received positive reviews from critics, who lauded the performances and racing sequences.
In 1963, Enzo Ferrari was approached by the Ford Motor Company about a possible buyout of Ferrari. Talks were unilaterally cut off by Ferrari when Enzo realized that the deal included the purchase of Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari’s racing program that had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958 and every year from 1960 through 1965. Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car endurance race, held annually since 1923. Upset at being rebuffed, Henry Ford II directed his racing division to build a car to beat Scuderia Ferrari.
The film tells how automotive designer Carroll Shelby and race car driver Ken Miles lead a team of American engineers and designers from Ford to build a race car that can beat legendary Ferrari. Ultimately, they produce the Ford GT40 for a showdown at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 98 reviews, with an average rating of 7.52/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Ford v Ferrari delivers all the polished auto action audiences will expect — and balances it with enough gripping human drama to satisfy non-racing enthusiasts.”
Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.
Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a “B”, saying that “Ford v Ferrari excels at evoking the sheer thrill of the race—’a body moving through space and time,’ as one character says—and it’s compelling enough in those moments to make the case that nothing beats the thrill of competition.”
Variety‘s Peter DeBruge praised the racing sequences and the performances of Bale and Damon, writing: “The best sports movies aren’t so much about the sport as they are the personalities, and these two go big with their performances.”