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‘It’s not about the game, its about the team’ is one of the final statements of this film and indeed one of it’s core messages.  And in this day and age where individualism is encouraged and heralded, and where ‘dog eat dog’ appears to be rewarded and admired that is not a bad central message to have.

 

Coming from ‘Affirm Films‘ (also known for ‘To Save A Live’, ‘Soul Surfer’, the soon to be released ‘War Room’ and another new film, ‘Risen’ due for release Jan 2016) and working with ‘Mandalay Pictures’ this is an excellent film. Especially if you are into American Football at any level – although this film focuses on it at college level.

And it is there where I find myself asking the question, “Does this film have the same appeal, indeed does it have the same impact, for those of us who are not so familiar with or clued up on or even keen on American Football?”  And let’s be honest here, for some, this writer included, there are concerns about the punishment that this ‘sport’ does to the body.

And this film, I think, recognises and unashamedly acknowledges and indeed in some ways highlights the physical demand that the sport makes on its players.  As this quote from one of the coaches in the film demonstrates…

Why don’t you tackle him? This is a contact sport. You can hit someone; it’s encouraged even!

Which leads neatly, I think to another question about this sport and that is the question of the way that for many this sport (along with others) has become to many almost a religion.  And attached to that the way that many elevate and adore – almost to the point of hero worship – some of the stars.

I liked this film.  I enjoyed it.  And as a Christian I appreciated the questions the film presents in respect of this sport, life, fame, and way these sportsmen (and in this context very young men) are seen, and treated even by their own families.

And I have to tell you, having in my former years been involved with youth football (that would be the English kind of football) I have seen first hand the extreme expectations some parents can place on their children – often trying to live or achieve some sense of achievement vicariously through them.

This film’s official marketing trailer makes statements like “It’s not about winning, It’s all about.

“growing up” –  and in many ways this film is a ‘right of passage’ movie.

“forgiveness” – and yes certainly that is true.

“commitment” – and again I would agree with that.

“Brotherhood” – and certainly that shines through.

“Standing tall” – and yes that is clearly demonstrated within this film.

But the question I think that we have to ask ourselves, certainly in respect of our young people of faith in our; families, youth groups, churches, is are we teaching, are we encouraging, are we expecting, are we inspiring all of these?

Because I have often thought that if we could inspire about their faith, the same passion, the same hope, the same expectation, the same devotion and commitment that many have towards their sport, their growth and indeed the growth of the church would be so much stronger.

And that if anything is one of the major concerns I have about this film.  So much of it focusses on the sport and on the team and so little – although certainly it does bring it back to this – on the purpose and central belief.  A central belief, it has to be said, which is very evident in the coach – Bob Ladoucier (excellently played by Jim Caviezel – also known for his portrayal of Jesus in ‘The Passion of The Christ’) and the ethos of his program at De La Salle High School.  (Did I mention that this film is based on true events?)

People always ask me what it is like to never lose.  Today I am lost.

Is a statement made by coach Ladoucier in this film at a particularly tough time in his and the team’s history.  And it nods to the historic 151 game winning streak that the team was having.  It also links to the challenges, conflicts, obstacles and even defeats that the team members (and the coach) are facing in their personal lives.  Things which ask the question (of them and of us as the Christian viewer) how will you respond? And asks the question – when things do go wrong …

How do you find your way back?

 

The acting in this film is excellent.  The characters (and the portrayal of them) plausible, believable, easy to relate to and empathise with.  And despite the fact that as a European with limited knowledge of the game of American Football I was unable to fully immerse myself in the game and all the hype that goes with it – both in real life and within this film, I would recommend it as a good watch.

The sub-plots and back stories are both very interesting and very informative as well as also being – with the right mindset – very challenging.  And there is more than enough, in the opinion of this reviewer, to keep those of us who are both uninformed and fairly neutral about American Football attentive and engaged.

Title:              When  The Game Stands Tall

Written By:   Scott Marshall Smith, David Zelon, Neil Hayes

Directed By:  Thomas Carter

Starring:        Jim Caviezel, Alexandra Ludwig, Michael Chiklis, Laura Dern

Genre: Drama, Sport, Christian

Released: November 21st  2014 (UK)

Runtime: 115 mins

Certificate: PG

Violence: Some

Nudity and/or Sexual Content: None

Controversial Language: Little

Potentially Disturbing Scenes: Some.

For Faith and Ful-film-ent Rating: 7/10 Recommended. ††††††††††

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