Any Given Sunday directed by Oliver Stone
I saw this movie when I was in High School. I had seen the previews that advertised it as the most intense movie about football ever made. I went in with my father and was blasted with the story of Willie Beamen and his coach, Tony D’Amato of the Miami Sharks. This really wasn’t I expected, despite being an Oliver Stone film. I walked out in a little dazed, to be honest.
You see, the vast majority of sport films on the professional level are a comedy of some sort: Major League, The Replacements, Bull Durham, and The Longest Yard. Many times, the team stinks at the beginning, but through a diverse group of eccentric characters they come together and overcome their obstacles to win at the end. It’s a trope, but America loves tropes.
This wasn’t that movie.
It was about the sacrifices of professional football through he lens of those coming into the league and those on the way out. It showed the limits of what people pushed themselves to in order to achieve what they wanted, on the field, in their personal lives, and professional ambitions.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite appreciate the film when I first watched it. I said, “hey, what the heck, I can’t quite believe this is pro ball because the uniforms are different.” Now, I understand the NFL is protective as hell over their brand and only allow it to be used in fake fairy tale stories. I didn’t understand the big deal about Cameron Diaz wanting to move the team. Now, shit, that has been the NFL ever since with the constant moves and threats of moves for stadium deals. I didn’t understand Al Pacino’s message, which I have come to understand wasn’t to Willie Beamen, it was to the viewer. And most of all, I didn’t understand all the fast cuts Oliver Stone used to interweave players of a bygone era. Now, I’ve come to understand and appreciate he was trying to say the players today forget the sacrifices of the mangled football player of the past who grew the sport to the moneymaking venture today.
The movie was ahead of it’s time.
I’ll argue this. If the NFL would have a allowed them to use a real NFL team, this would be considered the greatest sports movie ever made (competing with The Natural, Remember the Titans, Miracle). The casting is good. The directing is great. The story is relevant (talking about concussions 15 years before anyone else was putting the issue out front).
And it gives one of the greatest sports speeches of all time with Al Pacino’s story of fighting for inches. I feel like I want to put on a helmet and get some plays in after watching that scene each time.
Movie Rating: 7/10 Pantheon Cups