By Seamus Smith

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, Derek
Luke, and Tim McGraw

Original Release Date: 2004

Scores: Technical: 95, Story: 95, Acting: 95, Overall Score: 95

Based on the book by H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights, tells the story of the Permian Panthers high school football team of Odessa, Texas. The town has become an economic wasteland, where the highlight of everyone’s week is the game on Friday night. Hotshot head coach, Gary Gaines (Thornton), leads the undersized team through a turbulent season, as they strive to bring a state title home, and achieve glory for themselves and their town.

More than any other sports film I’ve seen, Friday Night Lights, illustrates what it means to be part of a team, and how sports can mean much more than just a game. For many young men, this is their one shot of getting out of crushing poverty, and making something out of their lives. It puts sports into a larger societal context—showing how integral is it to the daily lives of so many, who have so little.

The script is well structured, with authentic dialogue and characters that have enough dimension to seem legitimate. It’s filled with truthful, and genuinely moving moment and people, across the board.

Particularly strong performances were delivered by Thornton, as the team’s head coach; Derek Luke as their star player who suffers a career ending injury; and country star, Tim McGraw, as an abusive alcoholic father of one of the players.

The film has great cinematography, highlighted by some of the best coverage of football stunts in any film. Solid sound editing and mixing gives each hit a fierce visceral sound. The score is basic, but inspiring, with good use of source music throughout. And fantastic parallel editing between the characters, really ties the film’s story together.

There is not any weakness I can find in what is a very well crafted film, told with a strong visual style and utilizing a fantastic ensemble cast. Friday Night Lights manages to be both uplifting, and heartbreaking, at the same time.

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