Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby, the man Ford recruited to run the GT40 program after the race car performed poorly in its first year of international racing in 1964. Christian Bale plays Ken Miles, an English version of Shelby who could build and drive winning cars. Miles was so good that when racing one of his "Miles Specials," a Cooper-Porsche he improved and drove for California Porsche dealer Johnny von Neumann, he beat the factory Porsches so often that the Stuttgart automaker took Miles' car away.
The movie focuses on the first year of the GT40's winning run, in 1966 after the car had become the GT40 MkII. Bale calls the story a "David vs. Goliath vs. Goliath" battle, because Shelby and Miles had to fight Ford as well as Ferrari. "It's these two friends figuring out how do you deal with these a–holes in suits who know nothing about racing," he said.
And even though the cars won the fight on track, the two men didn't always win the fights with their paymasters. The three-way finish Ford staged at the end of the race cheated Miles of victory. Miles had been laps ahead of the second-place GT40 driven by Bruce McLaren at the time, but slowed down to let the car catch up. After the three-abreast finish, race organizers said McLaren's car started the race behind Miles, and by finishing with Miles had covered 60 feet more than Miles during the race. They declared McLaren and Chris Amon the winners.
The story of how they got to that point — which director James Mangold called "Butch and Sundance in the world of racing" — promises more twists and turns than the Le Mans circuit, and some open flame; video on YouTube shows Damon-as-Shelby being set on fire in one scene.
We admit to a bit of concern when Mangold says, "This is much more of a relationship movie and less a historical document." Yet it sounds like he's done his best to get the racing right, so all won't be lost no matter what. Head over to EW to check out the full story and more photos.