Title – Friday Night Lights (2004)
Director – Peter Berg (Hancock)
Cast – Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Derek Luke, Garret Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, Tim McGraw, Connie Britton, Amber Heard
Plot – Set in the small football obsessed Texas town of Odessa in the late 1980’s, Friday Night Lights follows the exploits of college football coach Gary Gaines (Thornton) and his team of young men as they embark on their season campaign with the weight of the town upon their shoulders.
“You got one year, one stinkin’ year to make yourself some memories, son. That’s all. It’s gone after that. And I’ll be damned if you’re not gonna miss it”
Review by Eddie on 15/07/2016
Perfectly encapsulating not only the high stakes sport that is American college football but the trials, triumphs and all in between for those growing up in an environment that builds pressure upon shoulders not yet acclimatised to the highs and lows of adult life, Peter Berg’s frenetic and heartfelt Friday Night Lights is a stunningly crafted example of the power of sporting themed movies and a career highpoint for many involved.
Based upon H.G. Bissinger’s book which is itself centred around the real life Permian High Panthers football team that was the heart and soul of the small Texan town of Odessa in the late 1980’s, Friday Night Lights is not merely built for an excuse to deliver action packed staging’s of football matches but is built to allow heartfelt and important messages to play out around it, so much so that this moderately financially successful film spawned the well liked Emmy winning TV series of the same name.
Berg (who at the time was better known as a character actor in films like Cop Land and Smokin Aces) displays a natural talent as a story teller here, as well as a fine orchestrator of his young actors (who almost pass as 17/18 year olds) and as we’re introduced to the Panthers team from Billy Bob Thornton’s well-meaning and measured Coach Gaines, Lucas Black’s conflicted quarter back Mike Winchell, Garret Hedlund’s pressured Don Billingsley and Derek Luke’s flashy star playmaker Boobie Miles, it’s easy to be pulled into this world of eventual pettiness and goal driven attitudes that consumes all those that inhabit it.
These characters feel alive, cut from reality, the town they live in eats, drinks and thrives off them and their sport and Friday Night Lights showcases a realistic view of what the college football scene represents to those that follow it. There’s the young men who have had their chance to build their life upon one successful year, those that have found success in the arena and now struggle to live out of it and those that merely find themselves driven by the idea of the team’s success, an outlet if you like to allow them to forget their woes. It’s in this broad spectrum of characters and snippets of Odessa life that we get that sets Friday Night Lights aside from other films of its ilk and become something more, something truly special.
Much more than a mere sports movie, Friday Night Lights is quintessential viewing for movie lovers even if sport is but a foreign occurrence to them. From Berg, the fantastic soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky through to Billy Bob Thornton and an impressive young (at the time) cast with standout turns from Black, Hedlund and Luke, Friday Night Lights saw the nigh on perfect culmination of material and participants come together to deliver one of, it not the best sport movies ever made.
5 coin tosses out of 5