Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, and Tracy Letts.
It is set in the 1960s. Ford cars have a reputation as a “Mom & Pop” car. Their sales are slipping despite aggressive marketing. Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) convinces Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) that the only way to increase sales and save the Ford Motor Company is to make it a car that younger men with “money in their pockets” dream of buying. They decide to build a racecar that can compete with Ferrari at the 24 hour Le Mans race in France.
This is based on a true story so it would be hard not to have an anti-climax. The climax is Miles beating Bandini (Ferrari driver) before the end of Le Mans. Bandini’s engine blows which leaves Miles the unchallenged winner, but this is not the end of the film. It continues to show the end of the race and shifts the focus to corporate greed.
Miles is the clear winner of Le Mans, but he is asked to slow down so that the three Ford cars will cross the finish line at the same time. This is supposed to be a great marketing tool for Ford. Unfortunately, this decision causes Miles to lose Le Mans on a technicality. Heart wrenching loss, but the hero moves on. The film moves forward two months. Shelby and Miles are working on a new car. Miles is test driving the car when it crashes. He is killed instantly. This leads to the highest highs and lowest lows. You leave the theater with respect and honor for Miles but your heartbroken for his loss professionally and personally.
Shelby is shown to drive aggressively and carelessly when he is emotionally hurt. The movie starts out with his doctor telling him he can’t race anymore because of a heart condition. It shows him getting in his car, swallowing his medication, and then driving fast and furiously through traffic. The movie ends the same way. He goes to see Miles’ son (Peter) for the last time (in the movie). Shelby gives Peter a wrench that was his father’s. Shelby chokes up, gets in his car, swallows his medication, and then drives off dodging in and out of traffic.
The movie is supposed to center around Shelby and Miles. They are the composite characters but in reality, dozens of Ford engineers and executives were involved in the design, test driving, assembly, and racing of the GT40. There were simply too many people involved to represent them all.
A hero needs a cool car. The movie is all about the GT40. I am not a racing fan, but I left desperately wanting this car and to drive as fast as possible. At the beginning of the movie, I was wondering why the sound was turned up so loud. Now I know- you have to hear that engine roar.
6-Evil is Petty/Hate Sink-
Beebe was the hate sink. He is the character that is intended to be so horrible that you want him to fail just as badly as you want the hero to win. He represents an idea that large corporations are greedy bullies who will stop at nothing to win.
There is a scene where Miles crashes a test car. It bursts into flames, but Miles is able to get out unharmed. His son Peter has a discussion with one of the crew members about car crashes and fires. They talk about how the racing suit is flame retardant. The crew member says he will be just fine because he got out in time. He then states, “they don’t always get out”. Towards the end of the movie, Peter watches his Dad crash a test car which bursts into flames, but this time he dies. A later scene is shown between that crew member and Shelby who is struggling to deal with Miles’ death. The crew member gives him the same speech that “they don’t always get out”.
This is represented when Shelby walks out to the track at the 24- hour Daytona that says “7,000+ GO LIKE HELL”. This is a nod to the original working title for the film. “Go Like Hell” was also the title of a book written by A.J. Baime about the battle between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans.
Fact or Fiction:
1-Did Beebe/Ford company ask Miles to slow down so that the three Ford cars could cross the finish line at the same time for a photo op at Le Mans?
Yes. Miles was not as upset over this request as portrayed in the movie. In real life, Shelby did order, not suggest, the three Ford cars to cross the finish line together. It is said that he regretted this decision the rest of his life since this decision cost Miles the win.
2-Was it true that Miles lost the Le Mans on a technicality?
Yes. Miles was asked to slow down so that all three Ford cars would cross the finish line at the same time. The referees determined that Bruce McLaren and his partner Chris Amon won because they had started further back on the track meaning the drove further than the other two cars in the same amount of time.
3-Did Ford really change out the brakes during the Le Mans?
Yes. This had never been done before. The Ford team did switch them out. Other teams did complain that it was unfair, but it was not against the rules and was allowed.
4-Was Beebe really that much of a jerk?
Not really. He did not like Miles because he thought his driving was too risky and as the director of the racing division, he was responsible for asking Miles to slow down so that the three Fords would cross the finish line at the same time.
5-Did Ferrari use Ford to increase their selling price?
Not really. Ferrari was struggling financially, and Ford wanted to improve their image. Ford did offer Ferrari $10 million but was turned down by Enzo Ferrari because there was a clause saying that Ford would make all decisions regarding racing. The failed negotiation occurred over several months and not a few days as portrayed in the movie. Fiat also did not buy Ferrari during the failed negotiations with Ford. Fiat purchased shares in Ferrari in 1969.
It is true that Ferrari refusing to merge with Ford because Enzo Ferrari wanted to maintain control over the racing division enraged Henry Ford II. He decided to build his own racecar and put together a racing team to beat Ferrari at Le Mans.
6-Did Shelby and Miles have a volatile relationship?
No. Miles was not as hot tempered as portrayed in the movie. He never threw a wrench at Shelby. The conflict between Ford and Miles was greatly exaggerated in the movie. Miles did race in 1965 as well as 1966. Beebe was not against Miles because of a hot temper. He was concerned about the risks that Miles took on the track. He did want Miles to drive more carefully. Shelby never walked out to the Daytona track and hold up a sign that said “7,000+ go like hell”
7-Was it true that Shelby couldn’t race because of a heart condition?
Yes. Shelby won at the Le Mans in 1959 driving an Aston Martin DBR1. He was diagnosed with angina pectoris and regularly took nitroglycerin tablets. Shelby had a heart transplant in 1990.
8-Were Shelby and Miles really the main players in the development of the GT40?
No. Shelby and Miles were definitely a part of designing and test driving the car, but they were not alone. There were many talented Ford employees and contractors that were involved. It is said that they all worked well together without any major power plays.
9-Did Shelby take Henry Ford II on a wild ride through the training course after locking Beebe in an office?
No. Shelby never locked Beebe in an office so that he could get Henry Ford II alone to discuss who should drive the car at Le Mans. He also did not take Ford on the wild ride. There is also no evidence that Shelby risked his company by betting it on Miles’ race at the 24-hour Daytona race. In fact, Miles drove in the Le Mans in 1965, but the car never crossed the finish line secondary to a gearbox failure.
10-How did Miles die? Was his son really there when he died?
He was killed 3 months after the 1966 Le Mans. He was test driving the new Ford J-car. He was estimated to be driving ~200mph. It is thought the rear end lifted up causing the car to loop and flip causing it to crash and catch fire. Miles was ejected from the car and died instantly. His son, who was 15-years-old at the time, was on site but kept away from the crash site.
It was a fantastic movie. Thrilling, funny, sad, and loud!
Can’t imagine anything better!
I am not a car racing fanatic, but those race scenes were crazy good. The production company said that the racing scenes were real and not CGI. Hard to imagine! The theater had the sound turned up so loud you could almost feel the shaking you knew the car was doing. It had just enough race scenes and car “porn” to keep the car enthusiasts happy without losing those who are a little less enamored by racing. They edited it so well so that your heart was racing one moment, laughing the next, and then ultimately crying. Well done.
Should You Go See This Movie?
Absolutely! You should see this even if you are not a racing fan. It is a great story and crazy entertaining. Don’t miss this one.