Movie Review: 'Undefeated' -- 4 stars
Documentary by Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin
When athletes and coaches wax rhapsodic about sports as a molder of men, it's easy to dismiss it as lofty rhetoric - at the end of the day, these are just games.
But that skepticism falters in the face of the terrific new Oscar-nominated documentary "Undefeated," an underdog story that transforms the chronicle of a struggling inner-city high-school football team into a deeply moving portrait of a group of teens learning, for the first time, that they're capable of greatness.
Filmmakers Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin utilize a standard sports-movie template, following the Manassas Tigers of North Memphis, Tenn., through their 2009 season, focusing on several players and the squad's charismatic coach, Bill Courtney.
But the co-directors imbue the form with deep feeling, immersing the audience in the emotions of the players' experiences while emphasizing character over wins, even as the team starts stringing victories together.
The historic plight of the Tigers, who once went almost 14 years without winning a game, mirrors that of their crumbling, depressed, forgotten neighborhood.
Yet amid the rubble of this place where dreams go to die, "Undefeated" shows the team taking flight.
Playing at AMC Loews Lincoln Square and Landmark Sunshine Cinema.