I think I speak for most soccer fans when I say I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Iceland upset England last week. Not just because of Brexit but more so that the English squad is normally vastly overrated. I understand they “created” the sport and house the Premier League yet that doesn’t mean their National Team is great. So who wouldn’t love seeing the English being shocked again, this time by the US?
“The Game of Their Lives” focuses on the 1950 US World Cup team whose second game in Group Play was a monumental 1-0 upset over the Brits. Luckily I had heard about this superb shakeup before so I knew what to expect. It’s very similar to The Miracle on Ice where no one gave the US any shot with many British newspapers misreading the wire reports when they printed it the next day.
Now if you think the American club is a little disappointing now, you have no idea what it used to be like. This ragtag group of immigrants is put together, last minute, to compete in the 1950 World Cup. With the movie runs a little over 90 minutes, the story is a bit fast-tracked…which is one of the biggest problems. A bunch of characters are thrown upon you with very small explanations of who they are. The film wants you to care about them but you don’t get enough time to feel any real connection.
Also they are basically stereotypes of certain races especially Italians. I mean I understand that they were immigrants however I bet this group of players had more of a connection than the film implies. Plus you have racial storylines that go nowhere like one Italian degrading a teammate who is into voodoo. Sure he gets his comeuppance but you never see the growth towards him really accepting his teammate’s beliefs.
And the movie really pushes the idea of trust for these players. But the belief comes out of nowhere. I mean you don’t really see them slowly trusting each other so after losing leading up to the World Cup, they suddenly play together? Frankly the whole game is essentially Frank Borghi (Gerard Butler) saving more shots than you would see in any normal soccer game.
For me, the biggest flaw with “The Game of Their Lives” is that I don’t think they had much of a story so they tried to stretch it out as far as possible…and it just does not work. I mean more should have been focused on them in Brazil and no one giving them a chance then the stupid training leading up to game. In fact England was the US’ second game so why wasn’t the first game even mentioned? Or maybe they could have had the movie center on the game with flashbacks telling the story of how they got there. That sounds much more interesting. Unlike a great and real underdog film focusing on The Miracle on Ice, this was no Miracle.
As I’ve said about previous films that focus on true events, I try to take them at their word about what really happened. Certain liberties were likely taken but, from what I’ve read, plenty seems on point (at least except for when they played England). Regardless some wooden acting and simplistic story keep a remarkable upset from becoming a historic shock. And that’s the real loser in the game.