The true-life story behind The Greatest Game Ever Played is so good, it's
really surprising that it hasn't been made into a movie a dozen times by now.
Maybe it's a well-known story in golfing circles, but I have to admit that for
me and probably a good portion of the general public this movie was the first
that I ever heard of the story. A caddy from a poor working class family
enters the 1913 US Open and forces the greatest golfer of the age into an 18
hole playoff that isn't decided until the final holes. Making the story
even more inspiring is the fact that both the young amateur, Francis Ouimet (Shia
LaBeouf), and old pro, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), had to struggle and fight
for the opportunity to even play the game as they needed to break through the
first of the elitist sport's numerous historical barriers, the class barrier.
In spite of all of the drama inherent in the story, and that exist on
multiple layers within it, director Bill Paxton must have felt that his audience
would find the sport of golf boring to watch. The movie makes very heavy
use of special effects shots - chase shots of the ball in flight, high-speed
zoom-ins on the pin, slo-mo close-ups of the club striking the ball , and many,
many more. Not only are these shots distracting, they are distinctly out
of place in a film set in 1913 and featuring golfers in knickers and spectators
in top hats and bowlers. Special effects distractions aside, The Greatest
Game Ever Played is not a bad film, but it's not a great one either. I
hate to say it, but as far as sports movies go, The Greatest Game Ever Played is
par for the course.
The Blu-ray release features an excellent picture and sound, but special
features are barebones and presented in standard def. What should be the
most interesting one, a look at the real Ouimet, is short and about as in-depth
as a high school student's report. And when it opens with the narrator
referring to the early 1900s as "the turn of the 19th Century", you begin to
wonder how accurate the rest of it is.