Publicity Stills of "Goal!"
(Courtesy from BVI)

Genre: Drama
Director: Danny Cannon
Starring: Kuno Becker, Stephen Dilane, Alessandro Nivola, Anna Friel
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 6 October 2005

Synopsis :

“I’ve spent muddy days watching young lads beat the hell out of each other. But once in a while, there’s one that comes along and lifts your heart.”

When Santiago Munez crossed the Mexican border into America at the age of 10, he had two things in his possession: his soccer ball and a tattered picture of the World Cup. Working menial jobs while growing up in Los Angeles, Santiago’s (Kuno Becker) passion was playing soccer. Convincing his father that he could be an international football star was another story: “There are two types of people in this world,” declares the elder Munez, “People in big houses, and people like us who cut their lawns and wash their cars.”

But when Brit Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), an amiable former football player and sometime scout spots Santiago at a local match, he recognizes a deft, fast and brave footballer—the kind of talent that the English Premiere League Club, Newcastle United, is hungry for.

Now thrust into a foreign land where football is a religion and Newcastle’s St. James Park its cathedral, this young Latin American must prove that he’s got the grit and the game to win a contract with one of the most beloved football clubs in the world. Muddy fields, cold winds and crunching blows from teammates—not to mention personal woes, injuries, and the temptations of life as an international footballer—are just a few of the obstacles Santiago must overcome to reach his ultimate “Goal.”

Directed by Danny Cannon (CSI) and set amid the heart-pounding atmosphere of international football, “Goal!” stars up and coming Latino actor Kuno Becker. Some of the hottest representatives from the world of football also appear in the movie, including David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, and Newcastle captain Alan Shearer.

Movie Review:

GOAL! The word heard when the ball is firmly tucked away at the back of the net.
GOAL! The word that sounds melodious even in a cacophony.
GOAL! The one word that can unite the world.

Football films are far and few to come by. The most recent was Bend It Like Beckham (2002) which was nominated for a Golden Globe, the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s cult hit of the same title, Fever Pitch (1997) and timely classic in the form of Victory (1981). There are more forgettable fodders that have been churned out than memorable ones. Thus, never has a football film been financed with this big a budget ($30 million). If that’s not enough to impress, a football film of this epic size has never been made before (a trilogy)! What’s more, this film has received support from both FIFA and Adidas (who have managed to rope in David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Gonzalez Blanco Raul. Look out for their cameos!).

Santiago Munez’s (Kuno Becker who bears an uncanny resemblance to Laurent Robert) rags-to-riches (well, not quite yet) tale of a young Mexican lad from Los Angeles who is talent-spotted to play football in England is the main premise of the film. While director Danny Cannon (CSI) has explored the most complex of cases working on CSI, he chooses to keep things simple with GOAL! and allow the football to speak for the film. Afterall, that’s what it’s all about aye?

However, fans who cannot wait to taste English football on the big screen must wait. The film unfolds slowly with a telling of how Santiago’s family came to Los Angeles. This is followed by a teenage Santiago playing football for his school team. It is by a stroke of chance that Glen Foy (Stephane Dillane), former scout of Newcastle United spots Santiago and decides to help the lad get a trial at the club. Having to bear his father’s unhappiness over the matter, he fights to get his opportunity and lands in Newcastle where he trades the hot and dry grass for cold and muddy ones. As he battles to win a contract with the club, the audience will be treated to an inside look at the Newcastle United training grounds and how trainings are conducted.

In the final act of the film, fans of the English Premiere League are treated to some real Premiership football with Newcastle taking on the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, in which the actual matches were filmed. You’ll be able to spot Alan Shearer, William Gallas and Steven Gerrard to name a few on the pitch. Fans would also be delighted to see Martin Tyler, the voice of English football.

The film, while shying away from complexities, regales in telling things as it is. The moral dilemmas that plague young players such as the clubbing lifestyle and tabloid scandals are vividly presented in GOAL! And these are the very pitfalls that tempt Santiago from football and what seems to be real love. But, in football, there is one golden rule and that is anything can happen as long as the referee hasn’t blown the final whistle. And in the true spirit of never say never in football, it is the very driving factor of our protagonist in GOAL!

The English city of Newcastle serves as a most excellent backdrop providing viewers with a most picturesque look of the city. An apt example would be of Santiago jogging on the beach while the waves rained gently onto him. And what completes football if not its stadium and fans? The camera does a 360 degree turn to capture the spirit of St. James Park (the name of Newcastle United’s stadium) and it immediately gave me the chills reminding me of that scene in Gladiator in which Maximus enters the Coliseum for the first time. In doing so, the camera also captured the passion of the Geordie supporters. In an interview, the actors mentioned that the fans actually cheered for them when they ran onto the field to join in the celebrations after a goal, being treated as one of their own. Similarly, the nature of the assumption that football is like a religion can be seen in the way the Geordies love their football; an example would be supporters taking a break from work just to catch the game.

Now, GOAL! is not exactly a masterpiece. Critics might complain about the dearth of actual football or the decision to not avoid sporting clichés. But this is just the beginning of a trilogy afterall. I cannot wait to see how it’ll all work out in the next two films though it’s been confirmed he’ll be transferred to Real Madrid in the second one and the third one will feature the 2006 World Cup in Germany. If it is able to pass the ball by its flaws and dribble around its critics, it has the burning potential to score a cracker with football fans worldwide. If so, leading into 2006, GOAL! should be the ONLY word you hear during the season!

Movie Rating:

(GOAL! is gggg-GGG-Great!!!)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri

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