A film about the life of the footballing legend Pele is a movie goer’s wet dream. For a fanatic of sports films, that feeling just quadruples. The very thought of what Hollywood could do with the sort of material that Pele’s life was made of was a matter of enormous interest to me. I wanted to see and feel the rush of the games and experience the subtle nuances that shaped the man who went on to become a living legend and also changed the way people saw Brazilian football. By that I mean their style and also their on and off the field histrionics.
However, this film disappointed me in more ways than one. It is an insipid and at many junctures just boring portrayal of the life of the man. It’s a film which is easily demeaning of the greatness of the man that Pele was. The story follows him from being an eight year old growing up in a modest topography to learning to play from his father and then his meteoric rise through the ranks of Brazilian football, thanks to his odd ball style of play that most considered wrong and clumsy. There are a few sub plots involving his camaraderie with his friends and his bonding with his father who himself was a soccer player and his rivalry with a fellow footballer.
I will start with the cons this time and in the end try to find out any pros that might have been there. The film is horrendously shot and edited. Its not so much the compositions that are a problem as the choice of shots. Can you imagine a football film without almost any wide and extra wide shots? This film uses wide and extra wide shots for capturing the audience and not the matches. Football is a game that’s power and beauty cannot be transposed without showing the player pitted against the others and how they dribble and play past those men. Be it the initial match when Pele is a kid or for that matter the World Cup finals, the wide shots are kept to a bare minimum relying on close-ups. This severely cripples the film’s appeal in the matches which forms a large part of the narrative.
The editing is another problem. Again the problems are compounded in the matches. The background score is by A R Rahman and it is just as insipid as the rest of the film. I couldn’t help but notice the total absence of the Samba flavor in the compositions. The speed and physicality of the sports action is laughable. We have all seen World Cup matches and we know exactly how ferocious and fast and physical they are. The matches here gave me a feel as though a bunch of college youths were having an evening practice. The actors do absolutely nothing to add to the physicality of the sports action.
The actors literally sleep walk through their roles. Kevin de Paula feels sedated throughout his act. There is just no feel for the character for him. He neither resembles the man nor tries to breathe life into the character through his own rendering of the character. He also moves like a slob in the sports actions. The cinematographer tires to emphasize on the oddball style by peppering the visuals with close ups and mid range shots but that takes away the pleasure of being able to see the whole picture that could have been achieved through long shots. Atleast that’s how we see football. Vincent D’Onofrio was better off playing the Kingpin in Daredevil. Here he is a hyper charged nobody about whom nobody gives a damn. Seu Jorge is the only affecting and believable actor on display. He plays Pele’s father.
The final could be sighted as the only positive thing about this film. The part involving the three kids was also mildly entertaining in an otherwise yawn inducing tale that has neither the steam nor the gusto to justify the life of one of the most colorful and iconic sportsmen that the world has ever known. Even a cameo from Pele cannot save this disaster.
Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)