Friday Night Lights (2004) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Friday Night Lights (2004) Directed by Peter Berg. With Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez and Lee Jackson.

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Based on a book by Buzz Bissinger entitled Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, and directed and co-adapted for the screen by Peter Berg, Friday Night Lights tells the true story of a college football team -The Permian High Panthers – and their bid to challenge for the Texas State championship in the late 1980’s.

What I like about Friday Night Lights, is that you could strip away the college football and apply it to more or less any team sport. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any sports film that covers so much ground around the collective effort involved with striving for success. With that, and like all the best sport-related films, you need very little knowledge about the game to feel involved.

Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as Coach Gary Gaines, the manager of the Panthers who shoulders the weight of expectation placed upon him the people of Odessa, Texas – a troubled backwater town crying-out for a little joy. Like so many struggling, working-class societies – sport plays a pivotal role in the overall morale of its people. Through incidental photography and sparse electric guitar, Berg manages to paint a picture of a melancholic town, mis-sold the American Dream.

The inner-dynamics of the team dressing room are beautifully played by a young and talented ensemble cast. The playful banter, the pre-game adrenalin, the blow of injury and the rousing team-talks – its all there. Not only that, the film deals with the pushy parents, desperate to see their kid succeed where they fell short. This creates interesting subtexts of individual drama relating to the core drama on offer.

The competitive action of the games are suitably bone-crunching in their portrayal. Between the clash of helmets and the brute force of a full body tackle – bloodied noses and broken fingers are standard.

With an array of fine performances headed up by the never-less-than-brilliant Thornton, Friday Night Lights is a gem of a sports film, imbued with genuine heart and the significance of commitment to the cause above winning. Touchdown. 4.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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6 Responses to Friday Night Lights (2004) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Shane Ongley says:

    Nice review, this is a film i’ve always wanted to watch, you’ve made up my mind for me.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, Shane. I had this one on the back-burner for ages, perhaps due to my complete apathy toward the sport. Against my expectations, I found myself completely immersed.

      • Shane Ongley says:

        Yeh, I’m pretty blah about American Football too but really looking forward to watching it now.

  2. Have you seen the TV show? I. Love. It. So. Much. I just finished watching it for the second time. It has so much heart and I love all the characters so much. I haven’t seen the movie yet because I’m not sure how I can watch the Panthers without the actors I’m used to but I will give it a try after reading your review.

    Not sure if they say this in the movie but, “Clear eyes, full hearts. Can’t lose.”

    • garethrhodes says:

      No, I haven’t -but now that I have seen the film, I’m especially enthusiastic about the TV-series – especially considering the rave reviews it gets. I just love watching Billy Bob Thornton, he’s such a unique presence. Seeing as you’ve completed the series twice, I’d give this a go if I were you – it might seem like a strange fit at first, but I’m sure you’ll relax into it.

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