Dir: Boaz Yakin
Denzel Washington as the first coach of an integrated high school football team in Alexandria, VA. The movie stretches the "football as military" metaphor to the limits, impacting that argument onto racial harmony throughout society. The movie is best when developing this metpahor, and Washington is one of those actors that comes off great even with trite material to work with. The contrivance of many of the film's plot points, and the presence of a nine year old girl who understands football better than I do and is able to drop Biblical references into everyday conversation (thank you Disney for succumbing to the fallacy that making kids like adults makes them better characters) prevents me from recommending the movie as a sports movie.
But the racial themes deserve some attention. If it is the case, as I believe, that the two most important events for civil rights in the US between WWII and '64 were the integration of the military and professional baseball, then this movie artfully combines those two ideas. By treating a team integerated against its will literally as a military unit, cohesion is sped up far beyond the pace that the rest of the world is willing to proceed. The unstated hypothesis here is that racial hatred is essentially a matter of misunderstanding, and that when forced to work together intolerance will be put aside for the greater good.
Of course, the story is much deeper than that, but the movie did make me think more about that issue. As a result, the film was watchable, and Denzel is always worth the price of admission.