Superlative sports movie about a smalltown high school (American) football team from Odessa, Texas. The Permian Panthers are the focus of the whole town. Alumni and former players follow the team with gurt intensity, expecting them to have a perfect season and win the state championship. 20,000 watch their home games, played on Friday night under the floodlights. The head coach, Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), is paid a $60,000 salary - higher than the school principal. The quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) is not the star of the team. He learns his playbook with the help of his crazy mother. Football is his best chance of going to college. The team's hopes rest upon running-back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), destined for greatness, a stellar college career, and the NFL. The full-back, Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), whose main job on the team is to block for Boobie, is overshadowed by his intimidating and violent father, Charles (Tim McGraw), who has done nothing with his life since he was part of a state championship team and hates to see his son fumble the football.
The film is based upon the book by H. G. Bissinger, a journalist who stayed in Odessa for a year to experience the 1988 football season by living amongst the players and townsfolk. A remarkable story with brilliantly shot, exciting action sequences and (rare for a sports movie) a compelling off-the-field plot to match.
Nugget: it's worth going the extra yard to see this.