Friday Night Lights – 5 stars

The best sports movie ever made, a character-driven blend of sentimentality and tension that dramatizes the football culture on a small, poor Texas town. Every trope that is bandied about by lesser sports films is obliterated, yet, the film doesn’t reject the formula. There are gridiron heroes, strong women who stand behind them, racial undertones, father-son generational combat and an obligatory half time speech.

But compare the ridiculous grandiosity and easy message of most any sports film with the replication of the game in this picture and you’ll find there is no comparison. The women are actual characters, not noble support. The racial issues are genuine and near imperceptible, the blacks don’t exist to teach the whites to dance, and the whites don’t exist for the confession of absolution. The father son dynamic between Tim McGraw and Garrett Hedlund is incredibly moving and Billy Bob Thornton’s halftime speech is poetry.

This is a beautifully acted film, as much about a community as the players, and I’m moved every time I see it. Never more so than by Derek Luke’s work in this scene:

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