The movie starts in 1963, outlining our rogues' gallery: Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), Ken Miles (Christian Bale), Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), Mollie Miles (Ken's wife, played by Caitriona Balfe), Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas). Shelby is a racer and race car designer retiring from racing because of a heart condition. Ken Miles is his good friend, a mechanic and a superb racer, but often feels too free when expressing himself. Ford's sales are in a slump: Ferrari is broke, but Ford's take-over fails in favour of Fiat. Iacocca convinces Henry Ford II to enter Ford cars into Le Mans to show they can take on Ferrari, but Ford's bureaucracy (embodied by Beebe) cripples their hope of a win ... on the first attempt. And so the scene is set.
Movies have a lot of moving parts: the look, the script, the actors. They can fail on any of these things (and others besides). But I chose these three because this one flies on all three. The script is well written (if a bit too long at 152 minutes). And the actors: that can make or break a movie, and this is perfectly cast. The movie mostly depends on Damon and Bale, and they're excellent. As is all the rest of the cast. And there's the look: I'm not a hard-core car guy, but I am a mechanical engineer and I do like cars, so there's at least a base level of mechanical and car accuracy they need to achieve. And dear lord those cars looked beautiful. Ironically, while the Ford GT40 is an attractive car, the Ferrari 330 P3 they raced against is gorgeous (they even worked in a joke: "if this was a beauty pageant, we just lost"). But in the end, a movie like this lives or dies by the storytelling: and it's very good.