- Danny Cannon
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, November 01, 2005
The classic sports star formula is put to work yet again and yet again it works like wonders by both avoiding cliché and falling in it shamelessly. The heart is there at every turn and the result is thrilling. I enjoyed every second of it and I’m happy that it was released in my country. It was also a pleasure to see Kuno Becker again, and realize what a good actor he is. Even though his character sometimes neglects of his Mexican origins (one of the quibbles I had about the story), he was up for the challenge and turned out completely credible and compelling. Good, because he carries the movie on his shoulders. I wonder how Diego Luna would’ve done in the role, as originally intended… Who cares? I wouldn’t change Becker for anyone else. This is the first part of a trilogy, and I can’t wait to see the second and third parts!
The story is about an illegal Mexican immigrant in the US who simply rules at football (soccer) and dreams about becoming a star but doesn’t really think it’ll happen. Working with his father (Tony Plana) as a gardener, he’s starting a life of mediocrity and hopelessness. Only a miracle could save him, it seems, and it happens when ex-player Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) discovers him and recommends him to the Newcastle United club in Britain. Things aren’t quite simple though, as Foy has already been forgotten as a player and has long lost his touch as a talent scout, but Santiago goes for it and gets his chance. Funny: even after he’s got his shot, he finds that there are several more challenges to face. One after the other, he has to fight all obstacles. Success looks easy from the outside, but it’s really not a matter of luck, but rather of effort, courage and perseverance.
I really liked how the story was so complex though it looked so simple. It talked about family values, love, illness, prejudice, conformism, emotional wounds, friendship, excesses, and several more themes. Santiago’s journey is exciting in the way that he not only has to fight against the obstacles, but he also has to be genuine at every turn, sometimes at a very high cost. The clearest case comes when he befriends the party-loving star of the team, Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), and has to endanger that valuable friendship by lecturing the guy. Another important dilemma comes when he gets the chance to step over the guy who helped him at first, Glen Foy, for his own personal success. Dilemma!
Sadly (or not), we always know where the movie’s heading, so there’s not much suffering though there probably should be. The film is more fun to watch than anything else, and all the appealing characters help a lot. Marcel Iures is extraordinary as the team’s head exec, whose wise words are unforgettable. Gary Lewis as the coach, Anna Friel as the girlfriend and many more, form a wonderful cast. Really good casting job, and some extra pleasure for football fans in the form of cameos of famous footballers whose presence is undeniably strong.
My major quibble: Though the editing was really good, especially during the football action, I never quite swallowed that Becker was actually playing. Many aggressive cuts are made from his face to his feet, and it just didn’t seem real. What’s worse: sometimes the face of his body double was visible and differed a lot from Becker’s. Oh well, I went with it, but it was never easy. Another thing I didn’t like, but this is a minor quibble, is how the story depended so much on coincidence and how the lead character sometimes took some really dumb decisions and depended on luck to solve his problems. I guess it happens though, but I would’ve liked to see him fight harder at times.
Do I complain? Not at all. I loved the story and script, the characters, the music (by Graeme Revell) and the direction. This winning movie is really a breath of fresh air. Watch it. And distributors: release it!
"He saw me play!"
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Other reviews of Goal! (2005): Morris