Reviewed by: Joseph Martinez
Family, Teens, Adults
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
January 13, 2006 (wide) / DVD release: June 6, 2006
“The incredible story of the team that changed the game forever / Based on a true story”
It seems that every year or so Hollywood produces another sports film. There is the underdog team that is destined to lose, and then suddenly at the end victory is in their grasp. It has become a cliche. With that in mind I recently asked Josh Lucas why he chose to do the film Glory Road. Lucas politely responded by pointing out that there is only 20 minutes of basketball in the whole film. He is right. Glory Road is much more than a basketball story; it is a civil rights story where the basketball court becomes the back of the bus.
This great film opens with a shot of the Hall of Famer Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) coaching a team of basketball players. His raw intensity is quickly showcased, he threatens to give a player a skirt since they were “playing like a girl,” the humor lies in the fact that at that moment he was coaching a girls basketball team. And with that we begin on a journey that is intense, warm, humorous and at times appalling. This “underdog” team is made up of talented, highly skilled players. They are underdogs because of the adversity that they face as they walk on the basketball court.
The film opens with a collage of shots and images of the world of the mid 1960’s, setting the context of this unbelievable story so that the audience can understand the magnitude of the events that are about to take place. In today’s world African-American men seem to dominate the world of basketball. The idea of black men not being allowed to play would seem unbelievable to this generation. This story takes place in an America when overt racism dominated the south and black men were thought to be too ignorant and weak to handle the stresses that came with playing such a highly skilled sport. It is a shameful reminder of the very recent past.
Don Haskins is recruited to coach Division 1 basketball for Texas Western in the city of El Paso, Texas. To put it simply, Don Haskins is a color blind man who simply wants to win. The fact that he is a winner made him a hero; the fact that he is color blind made him a legend.
Josh Lucas gives a great performance of this champion and the groups of actors that he works with are simply amazing. The chemistry among the group of young players is both humorous and inspirational. The acting is very believable. Jon Voight is mesmerizing as the legendary Coach Adolph Rupp.
What makes this film work is the struggle it chronicles. The viewer feels like they are in the back of the bus with the young black men as they travel across America being victimized because of the color of their skin. It is unbelievable to see how much we have come along in the 40 years since these events took place. This film is inspiring. It is a great triumph for first time director James Gartner. It is more than just a sports film as the main character is more than just a basketball coach. In recent memory I have not been to a screening where the audience is so enthralled with the film that is set before them.
The film does have some weaknesses. There seems to be too many characters and not enough development for each character. The sports commentator feeds the audience a narrative of the games as it is unfolding, assuming that we are too ignorant or blind to figure it out. Even someone who does not know a thing about basketball would know when the team is playing terrible.
I would caution anyone planning on taking a child to see this film that some of the scenes depicting racism may be too frightening for someone under the age of 10. There is a scene where one young man is assaulted and of course racist comments are voiced throughout the film. Other than that I would recommend this film to any person. There is nothing in the film that was either offensive or sin glorying. There is one sequence where the young men sneak over to Mexico to have a good time, and even that was refreshingly tame. I can whole heartily recommend this film to any Christian.
As the credits roll at the end of the film the audience can see and hear from the real people that this film is based on. It is amazing to see how one man can have an impact on so many lives. Don Haskins did not only blow open the door for young African-American men to play college basketball, but he opened the door for them to have the opportunity to go to college. The success of his triumph is more than victory on the basketball court, it changed the course of history, and it is the stuff that great movies are made of.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Comments from young people