Academy Award(R)-winner Denzel Washington (Best Actor, TRAINING DAY, 2001) gives a victorious performance in this stirring and uplifting film. REMEMBER THE TITANS is a rousing celebration of how a town torn apart by resentment, friction, and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony. The year is 1971. After leading his team to 15 winning seasons, football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by Herman Boone (Washington), tough, opinionated, and as different from the beloved Yoast as he could be. How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions, plays out in a remarkable and triumphant story full of soul and spirit. You and your circle of relatives will never put out of your mind the Titans.
With only one major star (Denzel Washington), an appealing cast of fresh unknowns, and a winning emphasis of substance over self-indulgent style, Boaz Yakin’s Remember the Titans is, like Rudy before it, a football movie as a way to be fondly remembered by somebody who sees it.
Set in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971, the fact-based story begins with the integration of black and white students at T. C. Williams High School. This effort to make stronger race relations is most keenly felt on the school’s football team, the Titans, and bigoted tempers flare when a black head coach (Washington) is appointed and his victorious predecessor (Will Patton) reluctantly stays on as his assistant. It’s affirmative action at its most potentially volatile, complicated by the mandate that the coach will be fired if he loses a single game in the Titans’ 13-game season. The players represent a hotbed of racial tension, but as the team struggles toward unity and gridiron glory, Remember the Titans builds on several subplots and character dynamics to turn into an inspirational drama of Rocky-like proportions.
Yakin–whose debut, Fresh, used to be one of the vital best independent films of the 1990s–understands the value of connecting small scenes to form a rich climactic payoff. Likewise, Washington provides a solid dramatic foundation (his coach is obsessively harsh, but for the entire right reasons) at the same time as giving his younger co-stars ample time in the spotlight. The result is a film that achieves what it celebrates: an enriching sense of unity that’s unquestionably genuine. (Ages 9 and older) –Jeff Shannon