I will admit, even at 25, I’ve always been one of those people who take the age-old saying of “it’s only a game” to heart. Maybe it was my lack of athleticism or maybe my apathy towards most of my teammates as a kid, but sports were never my thing. Nothing against them, I just never understood why people got so up in arms about their teams. Honestly, even after watching Undefeated, my stance on sports remains pretty much the same, but what Undefeated showcases is that level of humanity and intensity that people find in sports that had been missing for me all along.
See, Undefeated isn’t about the game at all: it’s about the young men who don’t see it as “only a game.” It represents possibility to them. For some players, it’s really their only chance at a life outside of Manassas. For others, it’s clearly love of the game. The fact of the matter is, there are a whole host of motivations that drive the players on the Manassas Tigers. That’s what Undefeated gives its viewers. Truth be told, the story of the underdog football team is a tired one, which is why it was no shock when I heard that Undefeated was getting the remake treatment, but the documentary medium was the perfect way to tell this story. It highlights the characters, rather than the game itself. In one of the most memorable lines of the doc, Coach Bill Courtney tells his players that football does not build character, it reveals character. That is truly the heart and soul of Undefeated in a single line.
However, what is truly remarkable is how cinematic the film is, without exploiting its subjects. Fans of the NBC drama Friday Night Lights will recognize an alarming amount of similar struggles facing the Manassas Tigers that confronted some of the beloved characters of Dillon, TX. The fact that the situations in the film are all too real is what makes Undefeated so strikingly emotionally resonant. I’m not even ashamed that there are times that the characters moved me to tears… okay, I’m a little ashamed, but whatever. The fact of the matter is Undefeated is a beautifully crafted, true-to-life narrative in a day and age where far too many films are content to pander. Undefeated never settles with its viewers. It challenges them emotionally and mentally in the most amazing way. It remains a staple of any sports fan’s collection and an intoxicating underdog story that inspires even more with its real-life subjects.
Undefeated was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 19. Special features include a commentary track, deleted scenes, a teaser trailer, and a making-of featurette.