Our Rating: 5 out of 5
Reviewer: Carissa Horton
How often are we born into certain family situations, be they rich or poor? We become what is expected of us, but sometimes certain people want more. Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) was born into the severest of poverty conditions, told that such experiences as prestige and golf were better left to richer men. He didn't believe them and in so doing fought his way into becoming one of Britain's chief professional golfers. But not even that won him good standing amongst his peers, or a seat at a golfers club. That was meant for better men.
When the opportunity comes for Harry to play in the 1913 U.S. Open, he leaps upon it, not so much for the arrogant reasoning of his government, but to prove to himself that he can win once more, that he still is the best. But he was not counting on a young man by the name of Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf). A mere twenty years of age, Francis loves the game of golf. He's been caddying the neighborhood golf course since he was a small boy and slowly picked up the desire to play himself. And play he can. But it is an uphill climb. His father, Arthur (Elias Koteas), and mother, Mary (Marnie McPhail), are extremely poor. And money is all that matters to the board members of the U.S. Open. Dreams can come true, and through a miracle of God, Francis is admitted to play in the Open. To many this is not just a game. Its a battle between the United States and Great Britain. But Francis doesn't see golf in that light. You play because you love it. Only this time, the decision to keep playing is hinged on winning. His father is unhappy that Francis is taking such an enormous chance with his future in playing golf. Proof of his skill is necessary, and Francis is determined to win. Not just for his father, not just for the United States, but to prove to himself that he can do it and that he is the greatest of his era. So these two masters of the game are pitted against each other, but only one can win the coveted prize.
There is no violence (apart from one solid punch in the nose), no sexual liaisons, and almost no language in The Greatest Game Ever Played. As far as any swearing goes, you'll have bloody and da*n in there, maybe twice. There are some scenes in a bar where men are drinking and smoking quite heavily. But on the plus side, our young hero Francis never once indulges in such behavior. In fact, when it comes down to the wire and his officials want to replace young Eddie, his somewhat short and stout caddy, Francis wont hear of it. Loyalty is first and foremost in his mind, and it works, because he earns a friend for life in Eddie. There is brief mention of a charming heroine. She wishes Francis luck by giving him a horseshoe shaped pin, but nothing physical ever happens apart from clasped hands. It was quite refreshing. In most movies there will always be some form of familial division. Francis loves to play golf; its his highest dream. But his father is concerned for Francis. A fear that in reaching for the stars, Francis will plummet back to earth. So they are constantly at odds. His father forced a promise from him that he would no longer play golf, and that was a promise Francis could not keep. In that respect, they were both wrong. Francis for promising, and Arthur for even asking. But in that family, they can not be against each other for long and reconciliation is just around the corner. I admired how Francis mother, Mary, supported him constantly. She understood that there is always risk in life, no matter your choice of occupation.
The acting was sensational. I love it when a movie comes together so flawlessly that you find yourself on the very edge of your seat in anticipation of the next move. You know what's going to happen because the underdog wins, but watching the journey is what matters. Shia LaBeouf is a young man who will go places with his career if he keeps making such wise choices. You may recognize him as Stanley Yelknats from Disney's Holes a few years ago. Keep an eye out for a much older, more mature Zig Zag who also starred in the aforementioned film. When it comes to British actors, I am very choosey. But Stephen Dillane was superb in the role of Harry Varden. I would not be a bit surprised if one of these days he was asked to take on the coveted role of Sherlock Holmes, he performs so well. And he makes what might have otherwise been an unlikeable character who is at odds with Francis, into a man to be admired. The entire cast was seamlessly chosen.
Do you want a movie with excellent moral lessons, fantastic casting, and a to-die-for storyline? Than you, my friend, have come to the right place. I don't play golf, in fact I don't really like the game, but that doesn't matter. This movie isn't about golf, its about perseverance. Believing in a dream and following it through no matter the cost. Some would have you say that you shouldn't be proud of your American heritage, but I am. And this movie expresses why so clearly, that I found it jaw-dropping. Americans are made up of so many cultures. We've come from all over the world, because we believed in a dream of potential. Well guess what, that dream can happen, and it does happen, and it did happen, right there on that screen. Its for every person in the world who believes in the greater dream of human courage and determination. From Great Britain to Canada to Spain, the message is the same if people strive to see it. Its for parents and children, teens and seniors, couples and singles.
This movie is not only about The Greatest Game Ever Played, but is also one of the greatest movies Disney has ever made.