"Gentlemen. The hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter more than you do right now. It's time."Coach Gary Carter addressing his team.
For years, the Buzz Bissinger's book "Friday Nights Lights" has been proclaimed as the greatest football book ever written. The story is about the 1988 Permian Panthers from Odessa, Texas. In the book, Bissinger illustrates how much high school football effects a town in West Texas that has basically nothing to live for. Almost everyone in Odessa is poor, train tracks divide the town the white and black communities and the school system is below average, yet on Friday Nights (as the tag-line of the movie says) "Hope comes alive".
The thing that I like most about the movie was the it didn't go away from the book too much and the movie tried to imply the same themes as the book did. Anyway, let's get to the actual movie now.
Unlike most sports movies where the viewer is spending about two-thirds of the movie trying to figure out who all the characters are, "Lights" actually does a good job in identifying all the characters. For example, you will know who "Boobie" Miles is (the Panthers' star running back) right when the movie starts. Another unique thing about "Lights" is that when watching, it feels like the viewer is watching a documentary, because movie does a great job on including detail on the attitude the town and players carry throughout the story and highlights from EVERY game are shown (something that never happens in sports movies).
The characters in "Lights" make the movie great, especially "Boobie" Miles (played by Derek Luke). Boobie is not only the best runner on the team, he is probably the best running back in the state. On one play, he broke three tackles and burned two other defenders. The only thing that faster than his legs is...his mouth. He makes Terrell Owens and Freddie Mitchell look modest. Whenever a member of the media talks to him, he proclaims that he is God gift to football and how God made Boobie beautiful and all that junk. When asked about his grades he replies "I'm an athlete, I make straight A's". Boobie is obviously not smart, when he was reading one of his recruitment letters from the University of Southern California, he sounded like a five-year old. Football and his uncle L.V. are the only two things that Boobie has going for him.
The main character of the movie is Coach Gary Carter (played by Billie Bob Thornton). Coach Carter's job is not an easy one. Throughout the movie, he is constantly bugged by boosters and supports telling him that he should imply this scheme or this player should play this position, Coach Carter just ignores them, but he knows that expectations are very high in Odessa (especially if they are the favorites to go the Texas Bowl).
Another character(s) that make the movie great is Don Billingsley (played by Garrett Hedlund) and his father Charles (played by country superstar Tim McGraw). Don probably feels the pressure of playing for the Panthers more than anyone because his dad as on a state championship team for the Panthers and his dad is also an alcoholic. During the first practice of the season when Don fumbled the ball, Charles came running out of the stands and when yelling at his son about "some little fumble". Don is ashamed by his father which is why he probably the biggest playboy on the team as well. However, Don is one tough kid (as evident in the final game).
Football is the only thing that Odessa cares about, after a loss a person calls-in a local radio station to say "there's too much learning going on at that school!" On Friday Nights, all the businesses are closed, the Ratliff Stadium (where the Panthers play) is packed an hour before kickoff and everyone is wearing black and white.
The game scenes are the best part of the movie. Some of the hits are so hard, it would put Terry Tate to shame, especially in the final game of the story. That game scene was the best I have ever saw because it captured everything that goes on during a football game (trash talk, adjustments, dirty play, emotion, etc.) Where does Friday Night Lights among football movies? Personally, I think it's the best football movie of all time. I have played football for nine years and I have seen about every single football movie ever made and I will have to say that this film truly captures what football REALLY is. If you are a sports fan, you will love this movie.
GRADE: 9.5 out of 10.
FOOTBALL GRADE: TOUCHDOWN with the 2-point conversion
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