If you read any of these posts you may remember the Christmas wish list I posted back in December. Thankfully I received everything I wanted. One of those was a DVD of the 1971 Steve McQueen movie Le Mans. I finally watched it the other day and I am happy to report that it is everything that it was supposed to be, and nothing it wasn’t. It’s been called the greatest racing movie ever. I’m not sure about that (I haven’t seen them all) but it’s got to be in the top 5 for sure.
This movie is almost a documentary of the experience of Le Mans in 1970, through the eyes of a driver. But not just the on-track footage. Some of the best parts show Mike (Steve) going to the track, the spectator activity outside the track, and what the drivers did between driving shifts. There is great footage of the Gulf Porsche 917s and the Ferrari 512LM, especially when you consider that in-car racing footage was still almost a brand new thing in 1970. And it is real footage of real cars and real accidents. CGI hadn’t even been invented then. It’s so real that one of the stunt drivers was killed during filming.
There isn’t a whole lot of plot to get in the way. Or dialog either, which is a good thing, because what little there is gets in the way enough already. The first actual dialog doesn’t happen until 38 minutes into the movie! There is some commentary by a faceless track announcer occasionally to help set the stage before that. The whole script could probably be condensed to about 10 pages, but there is one good line that I have heard several times that has been modified for other activities. I’m not sure if this movie was the origin, but Steve says “Racing is life. Everything before or after is waiting.”Hot Rod Rating: Keeper. It’s rated “G” and you can rent it on Netflix. But go ahead and buy it, it’s only $12.