Content Warning: thematic material; brief violence.
As a huge football fan, I was super excited to go see this movie when I first heard about it. Shortly after, when I also found out that When The Game Stands Tall was also a Christian movie, I decided there was no way I was going to miss it. I’d been waiting for another Christian football film since Facing The Giants in 2006. There is just something about God and football that fits together well.
When The Game Stands Tall tells the true story of the De Le Salle High School football team in southern California–a team who has one of the longest winning streaks in sports history, clocking in at a whopping 151 games from 1992 – 2003. That’s right. One hundred and fifty-one games straight. Eleven years without a loss. At this point you are probably thinking the same thing I was: inconceivable! But this movie isn’t your typical high school football movie. Where most high school football movies are about sex, pride, drinking, and disobeying your parents, When The Game Stands Tall stresses the importance of purity, humility, and family.
One of the biggest themes emphasized in this movie is humility. In fact, one verse said in the movie is Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” It also plays a big part in the ending of the movie. Purity is also something I was very glad to see discussed. In one scene, some of the football players are at a diner and ask one player how far he has gotten with his girlfriend; he tells them that they took purity vows and are saving themselves for marriage. Finally, family is also very much at the center of this film. From father and son relationships, to husband and wife relationships, to player and coach relationships, they all have one thing in common: a strong bond that points back to Christ.
Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ, Person of Interest) plays head coach, Bob Ladouceur, the coach behind the winning streak. Caviezel brings his trademark, passionate acting to the movie and plays the “father figure/coach” character to perfection. Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four, The Shield) plays assistant coach Terry Eidson. Chiklis gives perhaps the best performance in the movie, with his character giving most of the witty comments and inspirational speeches. He is an actor I definitely look forward to seeing more of in the future. Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, Lone Survivor) plays star running back, Chris Ryan. I found Ludwig’s performance somewhat wooden and lacking besides a couple of really emotional scenes with his dad in which he shows his true acting talents. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, The Fault In Our Stars) plays coach Ladouceur’s lonely wife who takes a priority behind football to her husband. Even though Dern didn’t really have enough screen time to do anything with her role, I’d say she did well. Overall, the movie was cast very well and the majority of stars give it their all.
Thomas Carter (Coach Carter, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story) takes the helm of this film and does some flawless directing. Being no stranger to sports films (he directed the basketball movie Coach Carter back in 2005), he makes sure that you feel right in the middle of the action along with the players. He is a director I look forward to seeing more from in the future.
Finally, one of the movie’s best features is the score by John Paesano. It was loud, but it got you so involved with the movie that you didn’t focus how loud it was. Especially in the football game scenes, the music hits you hard and gives you an amount of suspense that is almost unbearable.
Overall, if you are looking for a good football/faith-based/family movie, then look no further. When The Game Stands Tall hits the mark on every one of those categories, and you might walk away feeling a little more humble.
The Bottom Line