Undefeated movie poster
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Undefeated movie poster

Undefeated Movie Review

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Football season is over, but the sport gets one last reprieve before the long slog to August: Undefeated, the Oscar-winning documentary about an underfunded high school football team, is now on DVD and Netflix. Entertaining and insightful, Undefeated is well worth the price of admission

The documentary follows the Manassas Tigers football team as it finds new life under coach Bill Courtney. The movie explores the stories of several key players - including an underprivileged student who moves in with a new family to get the tutoring he needs to get into college, and another with severe anger issues - and Coach Courtney's motivations.

Having watched several of the 2011 Oscar-nominated documentaries in recent weeks - none of which blew me away - I came to the conclusion that I like my documentaries on one of two subjects: 1) a shocking and disturbing event; or 2) an important, modern day issue. There are exceptions to the rule, however, and Undefeated is an exception to the rule.

Undefeated doesn't tackle a shocking story or a particular pressing one, but it does tell a very good story about a popular but underappreciated sport. Football requires a tremendous amount of strategy, teamwork, coordination and effort, and the movie dives into what it takes to make a football team tick. The film looks great, too, and filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin capture the emotion and excitement of the various games, impressive given they are relegated to the sidelines.

But really, it's not even about football. The stories behind the scenes are meaningful and touching. Lindsay and Martin make you care about the coach and the players. You want them to succeed, and that, ultimately, is what sports are all about.

Of the five movies nominated for Best Documentary Feature last year, I would have gone with If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, but Undefeated is a worthy competitor.

The title is misleading, though: they lose their very first game.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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