If you like football movies, you’ll find plenty to like in “When the Game Stands Tall.” But this is more than a football movie, and “When the Game Stands Tall” is quite different than most football films you may have seen.
It’s not about a losing team needing that one win to earn their self-respect, winning the game in the last half a second. In fact, the football field is just the stage for this collection of characters learning about hope and despair, success and failure, life and death.
“When the Game Stands Tall” is inspired by the remarkable true story of the De La Salle Spartans and their visionary coaches: Head Coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel (“The Passion,” “Person of Interest”), and Assistant Coach Terry Eidson, played by Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Vegas).
See the trailer below:
The team had an unprecedented 151-game winning streak between 1992-2003, shattering all records for consecutive victories in American sports. In spite of their 12 undefeated seasons (and the pressure of continuing “The Streak”), Coach Ladouceur stresses the value of purpose and significance over the glory of titles and streaks, with a focus on faith, commitment and responsibility.
These traits and having a solid character, he believes, are much greater than winning. Ladouceur’s mantra: “We don’t expect you to play perfect, but to give a perfect effort.” This emphatic promotion of team play over individual goals comes to a head at one point when Ladouceur must confront a star player’s dad (Clancy Brown), who is only concerned about his son (Alexander Ludwig) breaking the touchdown record.
Ultimately, the struggle for this team – a new group of seniors – is not about winning that first game, but about not LOSING a game. When a tragedy sets the team reeling, the Spartans find their world disintegrating around them. And when their coach and mentor has a heart attack, it becomes apparent that the stress has taken a toll not only on them, but also on Ladouceur, his wife (Laura Dern) and family, whom he’s neglected. The team has to learn to rely on each other and reevaluate what teamwork really means.
“When the Game Stands Tall” is directed by Thomas Carter (“Coach Carter,” “Hill Street Blues”), with the football action visually dynamic, and the drama textured and layered. One surprise is – given the medium age of the cast – the acting is strong throughout.
Jim Caviezel says he brought some of the same philosophy of Coach Ladouceur, and how those before him have mentored him, to his interaction on the film with his young co-stars. He explained to them, “If you chose to not bring in your best work, it will look bad. I also expect you to boost each other and to work hard, and work on your scenes together, because you’re really going to carry this film.” As can be seen in the film, the results are there.
“When the Game Stands Tall” has so many layers to enjoy and reflect upon: teamwork, humility, stressed-out living, fathering, heart disease, mentoring, teaching, boys-to-men, that the actual football field becomes almost secondary. It’s not so much facing your trials on the field, but conquering them off the field that is most importance. As Ladouceur says, “Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard.”
“When the Games Stand Tall,” stands tall indeed. If you like a good football movie, you like this – a good football movie and more.
The Christian Worldview
“When the Game Stands Tall” has a strong Christian and moral worldview with many quotes about humility, teamwork, and the importance of things other than winning. There are several Bible references, and the team prays the Lord’s Prayer before games. There is also a scene of a Christian funeral that take place at a church.
One of the driving forces of the film is sacrifice, and looking outside of oneself to see how others may be affected. Luke 6: 31 gives us these words of Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” How do you see the players exemplify this in “When the Game Stands Tall?” How does the coach? What are some ways we can we do this with our family? With our friends?
“When the Games Stands Tall” quotes Matthew 23: 12: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Think of times when perhaps you exalted yourself. What might you have you done differently?
We are designed by God to be a part of his family and to have meaningful relationships with others. Life is much better when we are connected with one another. Life isn’t a solo act—we’re called to live life with other believers. How can we develop the team around us?
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” (Galatians 6:2-5)
In John 15: 12 – 14: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” What are some of the greatest sacrifices in “When the Game Stands Tall?” What is the greatest sacrifice of all given from God to us through His son Jesus Christ?
Want more details about the movie? Find it on the Christian Film Database
Don’t misss our special interview: “When the Game Stands Tall” Star Jim Caviezel Talks about Love, Inspiration & Football
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For more information about this author, movie critic, and filmmaker, visit Dale Ward’s Official Website