Directed by Boaz Yakin
Written by Gregory Allen Howard
Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Ethan Suplee, Ryan Gosling, Donald Faison
In the midst of the Civil Rights movement, T.C. Williams High School has been integrated. This mean that the football team is facing major adjustments as the black and white players learn to play alongside one another. In addition to new players, Herman Boone (Washington) has been appointed as the new head coach. His new title has also displaced the popular coach, Bill Yoast (Patton). Now the community, the school, and the team are all learning to come together.
This movie is based on the screenplay by Gregory Allen Howard (Ali), and directed by Boaz Yakin (Safe). The cast begins with Denzel Washington (Philadelphia) and Will Patton (Armageddon). Also featured are Wood Harris (Dredd), Ryan Hurst (Saving Private Ryan), Ethan Suplee (Cold Mountain), Ryan Gosling (Drive), and Donald Faison (Clueless).
This is one of those feel-good stories that Disney used to do. (Now they’re doing a lot of bad Lone Ranger-type films.) The true-life aspect of the story is mixed with the movie magic that makes this a really good movie. The film tries to run a parallel between the racial issues and the football issues, and does a good job for the most part. The characters are interesting and the dialogue tries hard to dig a little deeper than similar movies have done. While this movie definitely doesn’t ignore the racism underneath the drama, it also seems to forget about it at times. Perhaps Roger Ebert said it best when he said, “Victories over racism and victories over opposing teams alternate so quickly that sometimes we’re not sure if we’re cheering for tolerance or touchdowns. Real life is never this simple…”. While this story does seem to take the easy way out at times, it’s still a good movie that has a lot of fun moments. It does touch on some tough issues, yet it still remains accessible to a large audience.
The acting in this movie is just what you’d expect from a large cast of actors. Denzel Washington definitely leads the way with his tough-as-nails approach as Coach Boone. This works nicely when he’s paired with Will Patton. Patton’s performance comes out a little softer, and far more reserved. This actually creates a great contrast that works on the theme of the film.
This pairing is mirrored with Wood Harris and Ryan Hurst. These two men give great performances as competing players. Like Washington and Patton, these two are asked to mirror the tension in the community. The rest of the cast also do nice work in their roles. Ryan Gosling, Donald Faison, and Ethan Suplee all bring out the uniqueness of their characters. The rest of the cast all do nice work with their roles.
From a technical point of view this one does everything it needs to do. The football scenes are actually pretty good. The camera work, sound design, and other aspects of these scenes seem to come together nicely. The music and set designs, locations and costuming all create a nice world for the story. Having not lived during the era, I can only say that the work seems to feel authentic to the time.
This is a good movie for a family movie night. While the story might cheat on getting through the rough underlying issues, it’s still got a lot to offer. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a good drama. I would also suggest this to anyone who loves Washington or any of the other great actors in this movie. I give this one 3.6 out of 5 stars.