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  Publicity Stills of "The Game Of Their Lives"
Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films

Genre: Drama/Sports/History
Director: David Anspaugh
Starring: Wes Bentley, Gerard Butler, John Rhys-Davies, Patrick Stewart
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 28 September 2006


From the creators of "Rudy" and "Hoosiers," based on a true story, "The Game of Their Lives" follows the U.S. National Soccer Team, which showed that with passion and commitment, anything is possible - even the greatest upset in the history of the World Cup.

Movie Review:

Football movies have rarely been able to satisfy football fans, until last year's Goal! starring Kuno Becker actually showed that decent football movies can be made, although it followed a relatively simple storyline of a professional player wannabe made good. While fans of Goal! are waiting with bated breaths for the sequel, they were also treated to a lacklustre, self-indulgent Real: The Movie, which turned out to be nothing more than a glorified advertisement for the renowned football club.

Which brings us to The Game of Their Lives. Soccer, as it is known in the USA, is never a major national sport to begin with, not when the attention is on American Football, Basketball, Baseball and even Ice Hockey constantly hogging the sports radar, overshadowing the beautiful game, in spite of the US being hosts to the World Cup tournament in 1994. But probably little is known, except to the hardcore football buffs, about the David vs Goliath triumph the US had over England in the 1950 World Cup, captured in essence and recreated in this movie.

Seems like England has never failed to build its own hype of being the best team in the world, only to falter on the largest world stage. With their arrogance personified in their star player Stan Mortensen (Gavid Rossdale of Brit band Bush), the movie tackled the usual themes covered in any respectable sports movie - that of camaraderie over individuality, of building a team consisting of a group of misfits, and the putting aside of differences for the greater good.

It's also rare that for a football movie, the focus is not on the mercurial striker, or the creative midfielder. Rather, the spotlight falls on the last line of defense almost from beginning to end, the goalkeeper Frank Borghi (Gerard Butler), probably the man of the match, and one of the influencers in a team split in the middle between the Easterners led by Walter Bahr (Wes Bentley), and the boys on the Hill.

The narrative presented the story in a rather standard, straight forward (probably even cliched) manner from start to end, without any frills. The football games showcased were not like Goal!'s with plenty of nifty footwork and sharp camera angles. Rather, it's played out more like a documentary, and at times, as if you're watching an historical game in colour. The landmark game however, was elevated from mediocrity given the running commentary by BBC, with classic Brit sarcasm, humour and shock all rolled into one.

The production managed to capture the look and feel of the 50s, with recreated sets of St Louis, New York City and Rio de Janeiro, costumes and wardrobes, and more importantly, the integrity of the state of football then - with its brown leather balls, kit and those half-time oranges passed around in a metal bucket. Dramatizing the events at the dressing room, you can't help but felt that it was suggested the team's manager and coach did rather little on the technical front, leaving strategies, formations and training matters to the team captain, and decided through consensus.

The Game of Their Lives should attract football fans to the cinema, as well as those who are have a penchant for virtues like hard work, self belief and team spirit put on the silver screen.

Some trivia:

The 1950 World Cup had a couple of milestones set, with it being the first World Cup tournament after World War II, and with the United Kingdom rejoining FIFA after long years of self imposed exile. It's also the only World Cup not decided by a knockout final, but through the form of a final group stage consisting of the group winners Sweden, Spain, Uruguay and Brazil.

For the record, the USA were beaten 3-1 by Spain (actually their first group match, not shown in the movie), followed by the game with England, and finally a 5-2 defeat by Chile. Uruguay won the Jules Rimet Cup for the second time after defeating host Brazil 2-1 in the final game.

Movie Rating:

(A simple, heartwarming, historical tale about the triumph of self-belief, and camaraderie of a
team full of passion)

Review by Stefan Shih

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