Friday Night Lights

September 14, 2005 - Intense is one way to sum up this 2004 high school football drama starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tim McGraw and Lucas Black. Peter Berg directs this film version of a book written by his cousin.

The film tells the true story of the 1988 Permian Panthers, a high school football team from Odessa, Texas. Thornton plays Gary Gaines, their second-year coach. From the beginning, it's clear that the hopes and dreams of the entire community rest on the shoulder pads of these young athletes. Extra pressure comes from fathers and others in town who brought home state championships of their own. The message here: State title or bust!

Lucas Black, who played a mysterious boy in the equally mysterious TV show American Gothic, stars here as Mike Winchell, the team's quarterback and leader. Football is his escape from Odessa and from a mother who has some serious health issues.

McGraw plays the frustrated father of the team's running back, a boy who has trouble holding on to the ball. McGraw's character won a state championship when he was in high school and he expects nothing less from his son, even if he has to beat it out of him.

The season opens with a blow-out win for the Panthers but it comes at a high price. The team's star running back goes down with a career-ending knee injury. Will the team's hopes go down with him? Not if Coach Gaines has anything to say about it.

Overall review: **** Simply an outstanding movie. There's drama on the field and off the field. Football is more than just a game to these people; it's their life. But, what the coach knows, and what he tries to pass on to his players, is that winning means more than the numbers on the scoreboard. A great, great movie.