The movie's thesis is that the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Turin, between England and West Germany, was a pivotal moment in English football history. And they really work to make their case, starting with the economic and political chaos in Britain at the time, along with national outrage over England manager Bobby Robson, fuelled by vicious tabloid headlines. People were still feeling bruised by Maradona's Hand of God (in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final), and no one trusted the new hothead star Paul Gascoigne.
From here the film documents the stages of the World Cup match-by-match, goal-by-goal, from the lows of the opening scrap against Ireland to a remarkable victory against Belgium. All while English hooligans rampaged outside the stadiums, outdone only by the heavy-handed Italian riot squads. The filmmakers assemble this with energy and pace, adapting TV footage in a gorgeously cinematic way and building a strong central plotline that's fuelled by Oldman's almost poetic every-bloke narration.
As the Turin confrontation approaches, the film's snappy editing and clever song score keep us gripped. And we even have a few villains in the story: besides the Italian police, there's the destructive British press undermining morale with deliberately false stories and sensationalised commentary. But as the team comes together, even journalists come on-side by the night of the semi-final. What follows is surprisingly emotional, presented by the filmmakers in an overwrought way that actually generates a lump in the throat.
The film's painstaking detail is somewhat obsessive, but it adds a sense of zealous fervour to the film that lifts it above most documentaries. And the footage is remarkable: from the training grounds to out-of-hours poolside antics, we catch a sharp sense of the footballers' larger-than-life personalities, constantly punctuated by Robson's interviews and reporters' comments. Whether this was actually the "biggest match of a generation" is debatable, but by the time the players are taking their tie-breaking penalty shots, we vividly feel the weight of a whole nation's expectations.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 19th May 2010
Budget: $180 thousand
Distributed by: New Black Films
Production compaines: New Black Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: James Erskine
Producer: Victoria Gregory
Screenwriter: James Erskine
Starring: Elliott Francis as Footballer, Gary Oldman as Narrator
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