Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Invincible, the movie about the life of Eagles walk-on Vince Papale, is the greatest film ever made. The history of cinema has some amazing achievements, and to be totally honest, The 400 Blows, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca are all better than Invincible.

Not by much, though.

A few unsorted thoughts:

(1) Making a movie like this is harder than you think. Inspirational sports stories are mass-produced and every scene and sentiment already exists in an off-the-shelf version. You have to make conscious decisions to avoid these pre-fab moments. First-time director Ericson Core (whose name sounds like a cell phone) pulls this off at almost every turn.

(2) Are there one or two beats where it feels like you're watching Rudy: The NFL Years? Admittedly, yes. But these are the exceptions.

(3) Core and the production staff have gotten late-'70s Philadelphia exactly right: the striking union workers, the residential neighborhoods cheek-by-jowl with industrial space, the trash-strewn streets, the working-class neighborhoods and row-houses. This is what the gritty, waning metropolis felt like during those dark days.

(4) The cast is also perfectly Philadelphia. Nobody in this movie looks like an actor (with two exceptions)--the faces are ruddy and mottled. Even Marky Mark looks aged and weather-beaten. It's a performance without vanity.

(5) Greg Kinnear does for Dick Vermeil what Will Smith did for Ali. It's uncanny. Also uncanny is how much actress Elizabeth Banks looks like a blonde Parker Posey.

(6) There is one moment of brief homage to Boogie Nights which will thrill PTA fans. And if I was a cruel, unfeeling movie critic from, say, Dallas, I would stupidly complain that at times you half expect Papale to turn to Vermeil and ask, "Do you want me to use the Spanish accent this time, coach?"

(7) Endings are hard. Very, very hard. Invincible ends perfectly, at the exact right moment. And the coda with 8mm clips of the real Papale and Vermeil is genius.

1 comment:

That Dude said...

Every clip I have seen so far literally gives me goose bumps. I am siked to say the least. It will be hard to tell how this will play outside of Philly, but considering the prosicers past successes, this is like a loveletter to the fans and warriors to the old kelly green and silver.

BTW, my brother is in the movie as an extra in a bar scene, not sure if it has made the final cut or not.