To all soccer fans around, Pelé The Birth of a Legend will most likely give you the inspirational injection you need. And is one of the reasons it is our Movie of the Week.
From the slums of São Paulo, to the world stage of soccer at the World Cup in Sweden, this story tells us the humble beginning of a soccer legend.
He was the youngest ever player to play at a World Cup, and he would lead them into victory, starting a Brazilian supremacy that would start in the 50’s and only end in 2002.
This is the story behind the legend, but as the movie goes, legendary is not a word I would use for it. Sure you have all the exciting and tense moments appropriate to a sports movie, but the content of the story and the way is played carry a massive weight on a movie like this.
This picture had its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, so it has been around for a while, but only this Friday will have its own US release. To start things off, we must say that we didn’t like the fact that the movie is not in its Brazilian Portuguese language. It’s just not right, it doesn’t feel right. The subject of this movie, is Brazilian, therefore he speaks Portuguese so why not having it in the original language? We understand it’s an American production and that’s the reason is in english, but City of God was in Brazilian Portuguese and it wasn’t less successful or commercial because of that.
Having said that, this movie has something special going for it. It has a subject matter that is loved by soccer fans worldwide, and even if you know nothing about the sport, you still know who he is and who he was. You feel instantly connect with his story even before the movie begins.
Watching the hardships that he went through as a child really strikes a note, simply because São Paulo 21st century, is not really that different from São Paulo in 1950’s. The life in the slums, has perhaps become more dangerous than before. But as the movie progresses you start to see that the slums really stay more as a backdrop rather than a feature in the movie.
The makers of this movie have made on of the most inspirational movies I’ve ever seen, Friday Night Lights, and as sports movies go, Pelé really achieves what it needs to achieve. It’s easy to watch, easy to love and exciting to follow. We really get a sense of what soccer life was like for young Pelé, what it meant to him and what he had to lose if he didn’t make it. The stakes were very high and the story shows us exactly that. We also have a glimpse of what Brazilian soccer politics was like back in the day, not incredibly exciting stuff but it does help placing the rise of Pelé in a historical context. Because if conditions had been just a tiny bit different, the legend would’ve never existed. The movie gives us the feeling that Pelé was the right kid at the right time. Almost like a perfect wave.
The sense of the movie is achieved because we have great performances. Vincent D’Onofrio is not new to incredibly acting achievements, but playing Feola speaking English with a Brazilian accent is simply delicious. The charismatic coach that placed his bets in Pelé and conquered the first of 5 soccer World Cup victories, was really well portrayed by the American actor. All the talent of the movie, really understood the story they were portraying, and that is something that comes across in every scene.
Pelé The Birth of a Legend is a movie that is enjoyable to watch, however is not one that will be remembered for decades to come like, Friday Night Lights or Remember the Titans. It’s a good movie yes, but it lacks the magic and intensity that a sport like soccer has in its core.
For all those reasons we still give this movie a 4 out 5 rating, because we just love Pelé.