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"The Game of Their Lives"

Category: The Game of Their Lives Reviews
Article Date: April 15, 2005 | Publication: The Filmiliar Cineaste | Author: The Filmiliar Cineaste

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Soccer, it is thought by some, is the most popular sport event on a worldwide basis. This film will be of interest to all those stadiums fillers who can applaud an American success or a British defeat. Of course, it delivers most for American fans because it's about the first American team to be officially sanctioned and how they won their first game over the almost unbeatable British team that had been on the highest level for many years.

It was the spring of 1950. The U.S. was extended an invitation to compete in thee World Cup in Brazil, and they had to put a team together in 10 days that wouldn't outright embarrass the country on the field.

To do that, organizers looked to top New York players and then to a country hotbed of soccer fever in St. Louis, Missouri. The lads there were little more than devoted lovers of the game. They all had day jobs, girlfriends, fiances, wedding plans, job dependence.

A huge challenge was merely to get along with the eastern contingent, let alone learn to play together as a team.

This film is about the process of putting it together for their trip to Rio, where they were little more than curiosities. After being soundly defeated by Spain, and with the assistance of an England-hating audience, this narrowly focused, devotional film details (to a fault) how a rag-tag assemblage of Sunday soccer players defied all odds in achieving an American dream.

For those to whom soccer is a ho hum sport, and limited appreciation of U.S. sport history, the film has little else going for it.

Indiana director David Anspaugh ("Hoosiers," 1986) pulled together an essentially good cast to convey the athletes, their intensities, rivalries and issues, and the general one caused by the historical opportunity and its outcome. The footage devoted to actual field play is extreme by comparison to most other sports films, which works to the detriment of an audience looking for more universal meanings and strong character identities. It is not a "Bull Durham."

But, let me be clear: if you share Anspaugh's deep feelings for this game, you will not want to miss his reverance of and total commitment to it.

This should not to be confused with the 2002 documentary about the Korean soccer team, sporting the exact same title.

~~ The Filmiliar Cineaste



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