Set in 1971, this solid football drama portrays a true story about a high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia that encounters two important life changes – the desegregation of their school and a new football coach named Herman Moore.
Coach Moore is thrown into a turbulent situation full of racial tensions, neighboring rivals, and major sport program changes at the local high school. Moore, Denzel Washington, replaces coach Yoast, Will Patton (Armageddon, Entrapment), as head coach, then decides to keep Yoast as a defensive coordinator.
This coaching change strains an already volatile community, but lays the groundwork for greater achievements when the football team starts summer training camp.
After the predictably awkward “getting to know you” formalities, the players mix into a diverse melting pot where they must compromise with each other to succeed at Moore’s football camp. Memorable characters like the Rev, Julius, Bertier, Sunshine, and Petey exhibit emotions to the audience that heighten the overall impact of the film.
Young actors like Ryan Gosling, Donald Fiason (Clueless), Kip Pardue, Ethan Suplee, Ryan Hurst, Wood Harris, Hayden Panettiere (TV’s Heroes) and Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush) anchored their careers in this worthy film.
Political factions and clicks form, but are eventually dispelled after key characters “cross the lines” to help everyone interact together as a cohesive unit. One large Caucasian character makes well meaning, yet awkward, attempts at friendship with the African American players spearheads this effort. They find a productive way to vent their anger and frustration and finally begin to gel as a team.
Moore’s wise managerial tactics that help the players grow physically and emotionally are constantly questioned by his coaching staff. This element becomes especially interesting later in the film and shows that Moore is not without fault himself.
Just when you think you can anticipate character’s actions, the plot surprises you with some great dramatic (and comedic) moments that all focus on positive ways to resolve differences.
As their historic season begins, the Titan football players achieve greatness through change and honesty, instead of tolerance and lies. The players and coaches learn from their mistakes to advance as a cohesive team and meet the unrealistic, unfair standards at the school board with “flying colors”.
A nostalgic, home movie montage of the players’ activities during their winning season shows how the cynical community warms up to these unique players while giving the audience a closer bond with the players.
This uplifting, highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) film tackles issues of race, prejudice, and ignorance in smart, emotional ways. Washington delivers yet another powerhouse performance, but don’t ignore Patton’s low-key heroics.