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May 27, 2011

Movie Rating: 7/10 BD Rating: 8/10

The script for Le Mans (Paramount) barely contains any dialogue - there’s hardly a word spoken during the first half-hour, at least - and is even less focused in crafting an absorbing plot. 

What Lee Katzin’s film does offer is unparalleled photography of Ferraris and Porches zooming at breakneck speed at France’s yearly 24 Heures du Mans, a 24-hour endurance test between the world’s finest racers. Full of artful editing and psychedelic slo-mos, this is not a movie that caters exclusively to racing enthusiasts. But still, those who care at all about the sport will be awestruck by the risky feats on display – you’ll never see that kind of realism in today’s digital age. 

The astounding cinematography is mostly from the actual 1970 event, and the cast is generally made up of professional competitors. The only discernable actor is racing enthusiast slash manly megastar Steve McQueen, who starred in the film - and also performed most of his stunts - soon after the release of his other car-centric movie, 1968’s Bullitt. The lengthy event allows for teammates to swap in and out of the race, which allows for some plot development, but far less than your average film narrative. That said, the drama between McQueen's character, a widowed woman and a rival racecar driver is somewhat potent. 

Clocking at just less than two hours, Le Mans is a slow burning meditation on racing that’s not for everyone, but open-minded viewers will find much to love, as well as something to demonstrate their home theater equipment. Forty years after it was made, the film looks stunning on Blu-ray, with spectacularly rich colors throughout. It sounds just as impressive, in either purist-friendly lossless mono and eardrum-obliterating 7.1 DTS.

Aside from the theatrical trailer, a making-of hosted by McQueen’s son, Chad (of Karate Kid fame), is the BD’s lone extra. An enthusiastic and fairly enlightening 20 minutes, keeners should get some, um, good mileage out of it.