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I saw this film on September 1st, 2005 in Indianapolis. I am one of the
judges for the Heartland Film Festival that screens films for their
Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "...explores the
human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the
positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.
This is a story of golf in the early part of the 20th century. At that time, it was the game of upper class and rich "gentlemen", and working people could only participate by being caddies at country clubs. With this backdrop, this based-on-a-true-story unfolds with a young, working class boy who takes on the golf establishment and the greatest golfer in the world, Harry Vardon.
And the story is inspirational. Against all odds, Francis Ouimet (played by Shia LaBeouf of "Holes") gets to compete against the greatest golfers of the U.S. and Great Britain at the 1913 U.S. Open. Francis is ill-prepared, and has a child for a caddy. (The caddy is hilarious and motivational and steals every scene he appears in.) But despite these handicaps, Francis displays courage, spirit, heroism, and humility at this world class event.
And, we learn a lot about the early years of golf; for example, the use of small wooden clubs, the layout of the short holes, the manual scoreboard, the golfers swinging with pipes in their mouths, the terrible conditions of the greens and fairways, and the play not being canceled even in torrential rain.
This film has stunning cinematography and art direction and editing. And with no big movie stars, the story is somehow more believable.
This adds to the inventory of great sports movies in the vein of "Miracle" and "Remember the Titans."
FYI - There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past winners going back 70 years.
Bill Paxton has taken the true story of the 1913 US golf open and made
a film that is about much more than an extra-ordinary game of golf. The
film also deals directly with the class tensions of the early twentieth
century and touches upon the profound anti-Catholic prejudices of both
the British and American establishments. But at heart the film is about
that perennial favourite of triumph against the odds.
The acting is exemplary throughout. Stephen Dillane is excellent as usual, but the revelation of the movie is Shia LaBoeuf who delivers a disciplined, dignified and highly sympathetic performance as a working class Franco-Irish kid fighting his way through the prejudices of the New England WASP establishment. For those who are only familiar with his slap-stick performances in "Even Stevens" this demonstration of his maturity is a delightful surprise. And Josh Flitter as the ten year old caddy threatens to steal every scene in which he appears.
A old fashioned movie in the best sense of the word: fine acting, clear directing and a great story that grips to the end - the final scene an affectionate nod to Casablanca is just one of the many pleasures that fill a great movie.
As a recreational golfer with some knowledge of the sport's history, I
was pleased with Disney's sensitivity to the issues of class in golf in
the early twentieth century. The movie depicted well the psychological
battles that Harry Vardon fought within himself, from his childhood
trauma of being evicted to his own inability to break that glass
ceiling that prevents him from being accepted as an equal in English
golf society. Likewise, the young Ouimet goes through his own class
struggles, being a mere caddie in the eyes of the upper crust Americans
who scoff at his attempts to rise above his standing.
What I loved best, however, is how this theme of class is manifested in the characters of Ouimet's parents. His father is a working-class drone who sees the value of hard work but is intimidated by the upper class; his mother, however, recognizes her son's talent and desire and encourages him to pursue his dream of competing against those who think he is inferior.
Finally, the golf scenes are well photographed. Although the course used in the movie was not the actual site of the historical tournament, the little liberties taken by Disney do not detract from the beauty of the film. There's one little Disney moment at the pool table; otherwise, the viewer does not really think Disney. The ending, as in "Miracle," is not some Disney creation, but one that only human history could have written.
Although I'm not a golf fan, I attended a sneak preview of this movie and absolutely loved it. The historical settings, the blatant class distinctions, and seeing the good and the bad on both sides of the dividing line held my attention throughout. The actors and their characterizations were all mesmerizing. And I was on the edge of my seat during the golf segments, which were not only dramatic and exciting but easy to follow. Toward the end of this movie, "Seabiscuit" came strongly to mind, although "The Greatest Game Ever Played" is far less complex a story than that film. In both cases, the fact that the events really happened deepened my interest.
I saw this film in a sneak preview, and it is delightful. The
cinematography is unusually creative, the acting is good, and the story
is fabulous. If this movie does not do well, it won't be because it
doesn't deserve to. Before this film, I didn't realize how charming
Shia Lebouf could be. He does a marvelous, self-contained, job as the
lead. There's something incredibly sweet about him, and it makes the
movie even better. The other actors do a good job as well, and the film
contains moments of really high suspense, more than one might expect
from a movie about golf. Sports movies are a dime a dozen, but this one
This is one I'd recommend to anyone.
Actor turned director Bill Paxton follows up his promising debut, the
Gothic-horror "Frailty", with this family friendly sports drama about
the 1913 U.S. Open where a young American caddy rises from his humble
background to play against his Bristish idol in what was dubbed as "The
Greatest Game Ever Played." I'm no fan of golf, and these scrappy
underdog sports flicks are a dime a dozen (most recently done to grand
effect with "Miracle" and "Cinderella Man"), but some how this film was
enthralling all the same.
The film starts with some creative opening credits (imagine a Disneyfied version of the animated opening credits of HBO's "Carnivale" and "Rome"), but lumbers along slowly for its first by-the-numbers hour. Once the action moves to the U.S. Open things pick up very well. Paxton does a nice job and shows a knack for effective directorial flourishes (I loved the rain-soaked montage of the action on day two of the open) that propel the plot further or add some unexpected psychological depth to the proceedings. There's some compelling character development when the British Harry Vardon is haunted by images of the aristocrats in black suits and top hats who destroyed his family cottage as a child to make way for a golf course. He also does a good job of visually depicting what goes on in the players' heads under pressure. Golf, a painfully boring sport, is brought vividly alive here. Credit should also be given the set designers and costume department for creating an engaging period-piece atmosphere of London and Boston at the beginning of the twentieth century.
You know how this is going to end not only because it's based on a true story but also because films in this genre follow the same template over and over, but Paxton puts on a better than average show and perhaps indicates more talent behind the camera than he ever had in front of it. Despite the formulaic nature, this is a nice and easy film to root for that deserves to find an audience.
This movie gives golf a high mark, it was well acted and well directed. Giving you a view of history that some non-sports fans will enjoy. The historic factor alone gives it a high rating, the Brookline golf course was really done well. I am in the northeast and have seen Brookline as a fan, and as someone who loves the game. The movie was well done on all levels. A MUST SEE 5 stars. The acting was superb, Disney has another winner in its bag of Great movies. If for no other reason watch the film to give hope and encouragement to young people whom may not see the hope in their life. I would tell you that the setting, while in the late 1800's and early 1900's is very realistic. The costumes and dialect were right on the mark as well. Above and beyond the call of duty for a golf film. A Must see for fans and non-fans alike.
I was extraordinarily impressed by this film. It's one of the best
sports films I've every seen. The visuals in this film are outstanding.
I love the sequences in which the camera tracks the ball as it flies
through the air or into the cup. The film moves well, offering both
excitement and drama. The cinematography was fantastic.
The acting performances are great. I was surprised by young Shia LaBeouf.He does well in this role. Stephen Dillane is also good as the brooding Harry Vardon. Peter Firth, Justin Ashforth, and Elias Koteas offer able support. The film is gripping and entertaining and for the first time in my life actually made me want to watch a golf tournament.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow, here is another great golf movie. That's at least three in the
past few years that I've really enjoyed, that were well-done,
beautifully-filmed and inspirational. The other two were "Bobby Jones:
Stroke of Genius" and "The Legend Of Bagger Vance."
This is a true underdog story, if there ever was one. To have an amateur defeat all the professionals and win the United States Open Golf Tournament is an unheard-of feat. I believe this is the only time in the 100 years it has ever been accomplished. How much of this film is fiction embellished for dramatic effect, I don't know. I do know that I plan on reading the book, and I know that in real-life, Francis Ouimet had a three-stroke lead in playoff with just two holes to go, unlike what we saw in the film.
Whatever. Francis Ouimet's victory over golf legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray is fact. It is an amazing story and the filmmakers did a super job in presenting it here. It isn't something just for golf fans; this is a fun movie. Kudso to actor-turned-director Bill Paxton for an outstanding job.
Yes, a lot of this is just plain golf but there are subplots such as Ouimet's relationship with his father and with a pretty young woman who is obviously interested in him. It's also a touching story of someone giving a little kid a chance. The movie also deals with Vardon's demons of coming from the wrong side of the tracks and trying to make it in an elitist's sport, which it was at the time for both Europeans and Americans.
Shia LaBeouf is winsome as Ouimet as is Steven Dillane as Vardon. For those who don't know, Vardon was like the Tiger Woods of his day, maybe even more unbeatable. In the film, Vardon is pictured as a warm, nice guy; a genuine human being. the other major competitor, Ray (Stephen Marcus) is shown as somewhat of a brutish nasty guy.
The fourth main character of this golf story might be the coolest person in the film: a fifth-grade boy who winds up being Ouimet's caddie in the Open. He (Josh Flitter) brings a lot of humor and charm to the movie.
If all of this - a playoff with the huge underdog against two mighty pros and having come down to the last hole - were not true, you would think, "Oh, man, this is so hokey. Who could believe this?" That's what makes this true-life story fun to see finally captured on film. As with another sports film of 2005 - "Cinderella Man" - here is another excellent movie that got unjustly ignored when it came to awards. I guess nice films don't win awards.....just the hearts of their viewers.
I'm not a sports fan - but I love sports flics! So, why ... what is a
great sports flic ... this one. And the storytelling style, is very
If you are looking for a reliably fantastic 2 hours of entertainment, "Greatest Game" qualifies mightily. Here is a movie that moves. Bill Paxton has gone to the same Director school as Ron Howard - a.k.a. Richie Cunningham, "Happy Days". That is not bad. Look at the immense body of fine work that Ron did after moving behind the camera.
Bill like Ron was a great actor, but will be a superstar director if "Greatest Game Ever" is the indication of things to follow.
Wonderful cinematography - fantastic direction - fine acting, especially by Elias Koteas, Shia LeBeouf, Marnie McPhail, Josh Flitter, Stephen Marcus, Justin Ashforth.
This is a must see film not just as "feel-good", nor "sports film", this is very good cinema.
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