Friday Night Lights

Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke
Director: Peter Berg

There is something great about team sports movies. Apart from the usually astounding photography and fast-paced action-packed stunts, they possess a magnificent sense of togetherness, often drawing completely dissimilar people into one unit for a common aim and involving them in this aim to a level that is beyond explanation. As part of a team, you ultimately feel like you are an essential part of something bigger than yourself.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS hits this nail right on the head. Based on the real-life events from a book by H. G. Bissinger of the same title, it tells the story of a high school football team situated in a town that, like countless others around the United States, is obsessed with American football. Wait. Maybe obsessed is the wrong word. So passionate are the folks down there that they flock religiously each Friday night during football season in their thousands to support the game. What is portrayed very well in the film is that for them, the ‘sport’ isn’t just a sport, or even a religion. It’s a life.

Thanks to director Peter Berg (THE RUNDOWN) and his crew (which includes stunt-coordinator Allan Graf who has had ample experience in this genre by working on football-mad ANY GIVEN SUNDAY and THE WATERBOY), watching FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS on the big screen is like going to a live football match. The energy thumps from the screen in front of you; you can almost smell the sweat and taste the tears. The adrenalin-testosterone mix will literally send you on a buzz. The nostalgia will bring you down again. But there is an added bonus to this cinematically breathtaking experience: by focussing on only six of the key players and their coach (aptly executed by Billy Bob Thornton), it attempts at character development devoid in many such-like dramas. Even though this element plays second fiddle to the action of the sport, it gives you the needed emotional insight in order to care about what’s going on with the people at stake. This in turn binds you to the movie on a new intensity.

As far as sports films go, this one is sure to have you cheering for the team at the edge of your seat. It is best served as a cinema experience, bigger is in this case better if you want to appreciate the real impact of the on-screen games. Go on, you’ll feel like you’ve had a workout without going to the gym! Exhilarating…

5 out of 6 stars

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