The 2012 Academy Award-winner for Best Documentary Feature chronicles a year in the life of the North Memphis High School Manassas Tigers, looking at their players as seen through the eyes of their driven volunteer Head Coach Bill Courtney.
Hereís what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
ďFresh off its Academy Award win for Best Documentary Feature, Undefeated finally makes its way into general release platforming into theatres across the country. The first question that comes to mind is whether the Oscar it was handed back in February was deserved. The second is whether or not that means people will actually pay to see it instead of waiting for it to make the Netflix and Cable Television rounds later this year.
On the first point, while Undefeated wasnít my favorite doc from last year, I was personally rather fond of Pina, Buck and the unjustly cinematically ignored The Interrupters, it is still an incredibly strong motion picture and any and all accolades thrown its way are more than justified. On the second? Well, itís really rather hard to say as by and large documentaries typically donít bring in the box office dollars. It deserves to be seen, however, and hereís hoping audiences do take the time to give it a chance as viewing this is two hours very well spent indeed.
The story of inner city North Memphis High School football team the Manassas Tigers, the movie takes a look at their 2009 season under volunteer Head Coach Bill Courtney. The owner of a semi-successful lumberyard, he took over the reigns of the team in 2004 in hopes of helping the beleaguered and underfunded program rise from the ashes of mediocrity, giving these young men a chance to rise from their circumstances showing them what being part of something strong and successful is all about. Knowing that this is the Tigerís best chance to shine, he urges them to put aside their differences, rise from the poverty and abuse that has affected the majority of them all of their lives, and become a force both their fellow students and the community at large can rally behind.
But the movie ends up being more than just the inspirational story of one manís quest to help out those who werenít given as many breaks in life as he was. It transcends sports story hokum, even though it is a documentary and all of this actually happened there are more than a few moments where the film comes perilously close to restoring to Remember the Titans-like clichťs in order to get its points across, directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin cutting to the heart of the matter and revealing the intimate truth in a way that is intrinsically affecting.
Even more, the directors donít linger or try to make some sort of schmaltzy sentimental point of the fact that while Courtney is White and the majority of his players, especially the ones most closely profiled here, are Black. Instead, they show the universality of what it is heís trying to teach, how color doesnít necessarily bar one from being able to connect with these boys on a fundamental level. He shows them what being a team is all about, gives them the tools to potentially rise above their situation and make something out of themselves once graduation day has come and gone.
In the end, it doesnít matter if the Manassas Tigers actually do go undefeated. It doesnít matter whether or not they win their first football playoff game in the schoolís storied athletic history. What matters is what Courtney and the youngsters heís coaching end up making of themselves, what it is that all of them have learned about living life and becoming adults as the season comes to an end. Undefeated cuts to the heart of the matter and shows what real victory looks like, the scoreboard no longer important as rising from failure and transforming bad decisions into good one far more important than the final tally of wins and losses.Ē
A strong film that plays almost as well the second time around as it did the first, Undefeated has the potential to become one of the great sports themed documentaries ever to see the inside of a movie theatre joining the likes of Hoop Dreams in a rather sparse pantheon.
Undefeated is presented on a single-layer 25GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin
∑ Making-Of featurette (8:31)
∑ Black & White Teaser Trailer (1:42)
∑ Deleted Scenes
Not a lot, and really the only vital element here is the Lindsay/Martin audio commentary track. Other than that there isnít a lot to say, and while the film didnít really need a ton of bonus material I canít help but assume a better compilation of stuff still could have been come up with.
Undefeated is a great documentary that, while not my fav of 2011, is still not at all unworthy of its Academy Award. While this Blu-ray release could have been better, I seriously doubt fans and/or educators who choose to pick it up will be even slightly disappointed.