Monday, August 1, 2011

The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

One Of The Better Sports Films Around

- At just 20 years old, Francis Ouimet (Shia Lebouf) has his whole life ahead of him - in a way. The son of an immigrant family living in the late-19th to early-20th Century-era United States, class was a very limiting fact of life. If one is born poor, one stays poor; if one is born into the bourgeoisie, one has a tiny bit of opportunity; if one is born into the wealthy class, they essentially have it made in the shade.

British gold champion Harry Vardon and Francis' golf idol (played by the criminally underrated Stephen Dillane) is the exception that proves the rule. Born and raised in a poor British family, his accomplished skill at golf allowed him to rise from the dirty mess of the poorest slums to the lush greens of the English country clubs. He has not forgotten this life lesson.

Francis wishes to follow in Vardon's footsteps and similarly uses his great skill at golf to get into the 1913 US Open at age 20. But a tough course and formidable opponents (including his idol Harry Vardon) are not all that Francis must deal with as a less-than-understanding father and cruel societal framework stand in his way of living his own dream.

I know what you are thinking - I thought it too - a Walt Disney produced film about the 1913 US Open starring the irritable Shia LaBeouf holds the possibility of being entertaining but it cannot possibly be a great film. Well, I am here to encourage you to think again. Despite what it may look to some on paper, The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) is one of the better sport films available.

The cast is great as well with a subtle but powerful Stephen Dillane as British golfing champion Harry Vardon, a hilarious Stephen Marcus as man's man golfer Ted Ray, a hammy Josh Flitter as Francis' pre-teenaged caddy Eddie, and a surprisingly good Shia LaBeouf in the lead role as Francis.

As with every great sport film, The Greatest Game Ever Played includes many exciting sport scenes but it is not a film *about* golf - it is a character centered film about using one's talents, following one's dreams, and breaking out of class barriers. Where The Greatest Game Ever Played works excellently as a themed sport film it also works just as well as a period film - the film's featured costumes and sets being the next best thing to actual time travel. The film also simply *looks* great and virtually unknown music composer Brian Tyler set the film to a wonderful piece of music. Actor Bill Paxton (Apollo 13 (1995), Titanic (1997)) turns director here for the second time (directing a full-length feature) in The Greatest Game Ever Played. He produces a fine product - incorporating plenty of heart, ingenuity, and an attention to detail in the making of the film.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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