Goal! The Dream Begins
September 27, 2006
Starring: Kuno Becker, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, Marcel Iures, Sean Pertwee, Alessandro Nivola, Robert Dixon, Gary Lewis, Tony Plana, Miriam Colon, Stephen Graham, Kieran O’Brien, Lee Ross,
With the notable exception of Victory (1981), there have been very few good movies about the sport of soccer (as it is known in North American, football everywhere else in the world). In recent years there have a few notable attempts – Mean Machine (2001) starring real life footballer Vinnie Jones and the underrated film The Match (1999) – that have come close but really didn’t capture the visceral excitement of the game. Bend it Like Beckham (2002) probably came closest of this recent batch but again it didn’t quite capture the essence of the game either.
Along comes Goal! The Dream Begins (2005), a rags to riches, classic Horatio Alger tale of an illegal Mexican immigrant who grows up in the outskirts of Los Angeles splitting his time between working for his father’s (Plana) landscaping company and playing football for a local club. One day, while playing for his team, Santiago Munez (Becker) is noticed by a former British scout (Dillane) who happens to catch a sampling of the young man’s dynamic playing style. There’s no denying that Munez has raw talent but as he points out, a professional U.S. team won’t even look at him because he isn’t in college.
The ex-scout gets Munez a shot to try out for English Premiership football club Newcastle United but he has to come up with the money to fly there himself. This doesn’t sit too well with Munez’s father, your typical hard-working blue collar stereotype, too proud and fiercely stubborn. Going against his wishes but with his grandmother’s help, Munez soon finds himself on a plane bound for England. Predictably, Munez gets his hat handed to him on his first try-out as he’s introduced to the physical style of English football. Munez also ends up falling for a pretty young nurse (Friel) whom he shares his secret bout with asthma.
Kuno Becker brings just the right amount of youthful exuberance and enthusiasm to the role. He plays the classic underdog and his idealism makes it pretty easy to root for him. Fortunately, his character keeps getting lucky break after lucky break, including the club’s newest signing, the brash Gavin Harris (Nivola), vouching for him (after he helps him out in a pinch).
The football matches, with footage from actual Prem. matches, cleverly integrates the actors with real footballers and are quite exciting. They give the impression of what it must be like to attend a game at one of these large stadiums – what it’s like to walk into St. James Park, the roar of the crowd, the fast pace and the physicality of play.
Director Danny Cannon throws in the requisite slow motion shots of Munez running through the English countryside to the strains of Oasis blasting on the soundtrack. Two other songs of theirs get prominent placement in the movie along with Kasabian and the Happy Mondays – a fitting soundtrack to this film. What this film has going for it in a big way is a sincere love for the game and also a heartfelt celebration of the sport in each and every frame.
Goal is the first film in a proposed trilogy charting Munez’s rise in the world of football. It acts as an introduction, of sorts, to the world of English Premiership football through the protagonist’s eyes. For fans of the sport there are cameos by larger than life heroes like Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Steven Gerrard. Goal does tend to rely a little too much on the clichés of simple moralizing, inspirational speeches and takes a few unrealistic jumps in logic. For example, Munez gets a shot at the first team a little too quickly but we are willing to give the filmmakers a bit of dramatic license. This is a fictional film after all and not a documentary. Ultimately, Goal captures the dream some of us have of playing a Prem. match or, hell, even seeing one in person. All we can do is sit and daydream and watch it on television, living vicariously through our heroes on the pitch and a film like this one.
“The Beautiful Game” examines the intense love people all over the world have for the sport of football with mini-profiles on teams like Newcastle United (and how devoted their fans are) and international superstars Real Madrid and how they are treated like rock stars by their fans.
“Behind the Pitch” takes a look at how Goal came together. The screenwriters ambitiously came up with a three-film arc and approached FIFA (the international football governing body) who were very interested (and supportive) in this project – crucial to achieving the kind of authenticity that they wanted. This featurette also examines why they picked Newcastle and what it was like to shoot in their unforgiving climate.
“Happy Mondays Music Video: ‘Playground Superstar’” features Shaun Ryder and the most recent incarnation of the band rockin’ out to a very catchy tune with a video that integrates a night club scene from the movie with the Mondays.
There is an audio commentary by director Danny Cannon and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Cannon claims that Becker was the first guy he met for the role of Munez and knew he was right for the role despite his limited football ability. The director also talks about other casting choices and the look of the movie. He also talks about meeting with Noel Gallagher of Oasis and how he convinced him to write a song for the movie. Clement and La Frenais talk about the characters and their arcs over the course of the movie in this pleasant enough track.
Finally, there are “Golden Moments from the FIFA Cup,” a highlight reel of vintage goals from the World Cup over the years that is a nice touch to round out the extras on this disc.