Sunday, 18 November 2012

Remember the Titans (2000)

Denzel Washington leads an ensemble cast through the trails of racial discrimination and sporting hardships in small town USA.

Based on the true story of Herman Boone (Washington), a black man who is brought in to coach the football team at Alexandria, Vriginia's new mixed race school. Tensions abound at all levels: Boone has replaced the much beloved Bill Yoast (Will Patton) much to the chargrin of the locals, especially the players' families, and at the larger scale there are protests by white famileis outside the gates of the new school, not the mention the race fuelled riots and lynch mobs that nearly reach full form at the start of the film.

Set against the backdrop of racial tension, Remember the Titans is about  a group of people learning about each other and growing as individuals and as a team. It's a little bit too "Disney" for my liking at times; the team go away together and essentially go on an extended Rocky-style training montage of overcoming adversity together and learning to accept each others differences and then they come back as if they'd been best mates forever and that racial tension had never been on the table. A couple of the supporting cast fill the necessary roles of "guy who doesn't change and makes it difficult for his friend" and "takes a long time to come round but does good in the end", but generally speaking everyone's an angel once the first act is over.

At the centre is the most interesting dynamic, the relationship Boone and Yoast.  It's not clear cut where either of the two stand with regards to each other for most of the film, and it's for the best. These two are the characters that feel most like real people, where the rest are one dimensional metaphors for social change. Washington and Patton sell the uncertain and confused relationship well, with a mix of respect and disdain that changes ratio multiple times through the course of the film, until it reaches the easily foreseen conclusion.

All in all, a great sports film that almost falls into the trap of being too neat and clean cut, but is saved by great performances by the central cast and some fantastic game sequences. The final game scene is visceral and carries a great weight to it that really sells the satisfying, if predictable, finale.

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