Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Undefeated’ Review: A Sports Story That’s Lovable for Non-Sports Fans

Bill Courtney is hard, motivated, completely badass and he runs this show. When listening to him on-screen, I wanted to get up and better my life, so I can only imagine how intimidating and inspirational he is one on one.

Undefeated is a straightforward documentary of a high school football team called the Manassas Tigers who play and live in inner-city Memphis. We get a deep look into their lives on and off the field during their 2009 football season. Traditionally the Tigers were the subordinate team in the league, but everything changed when Bill Courtney, a former high school football coach turned lumber salesman stepped up to the plate.

With Courtney in the picture, now the team has a chance at the state championship. What’s absolutely spectacular about Courtney is that his primary focus is for the kids’ to go on to college versus winning the championship. I don’t think there are enough coaches like that and it’s fantastic he is getting this exposure since he truly did change these children’s lives.

When the film begins, we are reminded of a little of Friday Night Lights with a touch of The Blind Side, a story which I was completely moved by. But Undefeated excels at what these two couldn’t do and that’s putting us right in the action and emotion of these complicated teenagers.

To watch the bond between the coach and the teammates evokes so much inspiration and wonder. You really don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this documentary. I’m not much for football and I was still very much engaged with the overall journey of difficulties and triumph these kids’ had to endure.

One spectacular scene really stood out for me in the film. One of the players has tremendous anger issues and in his rage decides to quit the team on spot and walk home. Courtney walks after him, pleading with him how the good of the team can help him and it would be a mistake to quit. Even in between all the cursing, he offers the kid a ride home in good faith. This is why documentary can beat out fiction because of the truth at the core.

Undefeated is an interesting tale of how motivation and teamwork can change your life and you don’t have to be a sports fan to get it!

Undefeated won Best Documentary this past Sunday at the Academy Awards.

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