Movie Review - Undefeated

This movie won the Oscar this year for Best Documentary, which means that it's considered the consensus nonfiction picture of 2011. The problem is that it wasn't released theatrically in 2011. It was actually released in March 2012, one week after its win on the Oscar telecast. Put against the other nominees, this was by far the best of the bunch, but, that being said, it is in many ways a typical sports movie, hitting upon things that have been hit upon in countless other films. Its saving grace is the main subject, Bill Courtney who is a dynamic and thoroughly engaging person who pulls us along an emotional ride that really is affecting.

Bill Courtney is the football coach for Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tennessee. He's a volunteer coach, which means he doesn't get paid for it. He has a wife and kids whom he supports through his business, but whatever free time he gets, he usually devotes to coaching the boys football team called the Manassas Tigers. This is often to the detriment of time spent with his own flesh-and-blood children.

We never see this conflict manifest itself beyond the grief that Courtney gives himself during times of strife with the team. Courtney is a big guy, slightly overweight. He was probably a linebacker in his high school days. He sometimes screams and yells and curses at the boys like a beast. Courtney will occassionally jump in the faces of certain players. He'll even grab them, but what's remarkable and truly powerful is that it's not to shake them down.

When Courtney gets in their faces, he's often calm and quite loving. In a way, he becomes a father-figure to these young men. He becomes personally involved and attached to them. He knows their nicknames. At one point, he goes to a boy's house. The movie becomes about the bond between Courtney and these boys. The games are almost incidental. Meanwhile, Courtney reinforces the values of heart, character, discipline and team first. He reiterates and reiterates them. By the end, you feel that these aren't just words he's repeating. These are things he deeply feels. Thanks to the documentarians, the audience feels them too.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 50 mins.


  1. Nice review. I loved this one too. (my review:



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