Throughout cinema history, every decade or so, a sporting movie arrives on the big screen which inspires us to be the best we can be – either in our sporting endeavours or in our daily lives.
In Chariots of Fire audiences were inspired to remain true to themselves after sprinter Eric Liddell (played by Ian Charleson) learns that the heat for his 100 metre race at the 1924 Olympics in Paris will be on a Sunday. He refuses to run the race – despite strong pressure from the Prince of Wales and the British Olympic committee – because his Christian convictions prevent this.
In Hoosiers, the underdog triumphes when Normal Dale (Gene Hackman) takes over as coach of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team and leads his side to the state championship despite the odds being against them.The biggest underdog story however was boxing drama Rocky, written and starring Sylvester Stallone.
Although the film spawned several lacklustre sequels, the 1976 original still resonates with movie fans today as Rocky Balboa, the 30-year-old Italian Stallion, goes the distance with undefeated heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.
It’s been a while since any sports movie has inspired audiences like those above. However, in 2011 a film arrived quietly on the big screen which resonated with audiences for its message of redemption. That film was Warrior.
Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, Warrior tells the story of two estranged brothers entering a mixed martial arts tournament.
Directed by Gavin O’Connor, it deals with the brothers’ struggling relationship with each other and their recovering alcoholic father. The film is very much in the Rocky mould but it goes much deeper than that. While Rocky is essentially a love story, Warrior delves deep into the human psyche. Tommy Conlon (Hardy) is a former US marine who grew up with an alcoholic dad and eventually saw his mother die. He blames his brother Brendan (Edgerton) for abandoning them for his girlfriend (and now wife) as a 16-year-old.
Brendan is a doting husband and father who has moved on from his troubled path to become a successful teacher.
However, he and his wife are having to work three jobs to keep their home from being repossessed. Eventually debts pile up and the family are 30 days from being evicted. In the middle of this is Paddy, the father of the two boys, has gone 1,000 days without drinking. It is at the start of the movie, in Paddy’s home, when things start to go wrong. The arrival of Tommy to his father’s door opens up previously healing wounds and so the film starts to unravel before the redemptive finale.
The sporting element to the movie comes in the form of MMA (mixed martial arts). This recent sporting element has become as big as boxing to the current Ipod generation.
MMA is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, karate, judo and other styles.
Both brothers have a background in the sport but use it in the movie for different reasons. For Tommy it’s a form of relief to release all his pent up anger, while for Brendan it’s an opportunity to earn money so his family can keep their house.
As the story unfolds you are slowly drawn into their world as they struggle to survive both mental and financial hardships, while their father tries to repair his relationship with his sons, all the while remaining free of alcohol.
Like Rocky, the movie builds to a climax which I won’t spoilt for those who have yet to see it. However, it pulls at the heartstrings in a realistic way. In fact, the movie has become beloved of female cinema goers as much as men because of the emotional pull.It’s been a while since a sporting movie has affected me so much, but it’s been worth the wait.
I urge all who haven’t seen it to do so as soon as you can. I guarantee you’ll be inspired by the power of redemption.