Media Screening – On assignment for Sydney Scoop / Editor: Rebecca Varidel
In cinemas Thursday 14 November
For those unfamiliar with the world of professional motor racing, it’s compelling ability to draw you into this world and its story will surprise you and make you look at the relationship you have with your car differently the next time you get behind your wheel. For marketers its a great study on repositioning, for car enthusiasts we’re taken on a journey of bliss in pursuit of 7000 revolutions per minute where time stops and a driver reaches motoring zen being at one with his or her vehicle.
Set in the 1960s, Ford aspires to change its perception as a leading brand in the motoring industry by competing in the world’s oldest 24 hour car race, Le Mans. Dominated by Ferrari, Ford calls on Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the only American driver to ever win it to help them build a car faster than its main rival. Unable to drive, Shelby calls on old friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to lead the design team and race the US $9 million car to victory. Based on a true story, some embellishments are taken to propel the story.
Damon’s Southern texan charm in Shelby alongside Bale’s thrillseeking hothead Miles are a formule 1 extravaganza. The two hours and thirty two minutes of film is jam packed with octane with dramatic moments from corporate politics of the executive offices testing a friendship. It’s balanced with comedic moments from the longtim rivalry between Henry Ford II and and Enzo Ferrari and we’re given a new granule perspective into race car mobility with the high senses of Ken Miles (Christian Bale) with each gear change, clutch control and corner steers embodying every feature of the car he has helped design. Although the actors had never worked together previously, they were excited by the chance to share the screen and explore the friendship between these two singular characters.
“Shelby just felt Ken Miles was indispensable to this mission, and Ken was known for not suffering fools,” Damon says. “He was irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thought an idea was stupid, he’d tell you, and he had very little political skill or diplomatic skill. And so he was a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn’t get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at Le Mans.”
There’s no CGI at all in this film in order to capture the essence and premise of the film – the characters built the cars and drove the cars into racing victory. This authenticity is what adds to the dynamics of the film. Before shooting began, Bale trained with veteran stunt coordinator and stunt driver Robert Nagle to help him prepare; Bale drives both a Shelby Cobra and a variety of Ford GT40s on screen. The stunt coordinator spent a week with the actor at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Arizona, which specializes in racing. “Christian was very much into it and has a very strong aptitude for this” Nagle says. “He’s the best actor I’ve ever trained for driving.” Throughout, picture car coordinator RickCollins, whose previous credits include several films in the Fast & Furious franchise, First Man, Bright and Captain Marvel, among others, worked closely with the production designers and his art directors to make sure the cars that were either built, borrowed or rented were exactly what was used back in the day.
In the softer scenes we begin to understand the mind of a true engineering genius. “If your’e going to push a car to it’s limit, you have to respect it” he says in an eye opening scene, one of many he has with son Peter (Noah Jupe). It’s this humanising with support from wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) that makes this story one that resonates with everyone.
“There’s a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades
The machine becomes weightless. It disappears.
All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time.
At 7,000 RPM, that’s where you meet it. That’s where it waits for you…”