Shiloh Christian Academy Eagles football coach Grant Taylor (writer/director Alex Kendrick) is in one heck of a rut. Money is tight, his car keeps breaking down, his wife can't get pregnant after years of trying, his house smells, and unbeknownst to him, his job is on the line. The performance (or lack thereof) of his team isn't helping his case either, as they don't seem to be capable of being inspired. When Taylor turns to God, things start to turn around, including the confidence of everyone surrounding him. The 0-3 team go on a winning streak, and reach the playoffs, and end up in the finals against the Richland Giants, a high school football juggernaut with more players, more size, and more winning experience. Will faith help the underdogs beat the mighty Giants and win State?
'Facing the Giants' doesn't pull any punches when it comes to its intentions. The film, created by the Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia, stars members of the church, and preaches a message of confidence in oneself and faith in the Lord. It's too bad the film was created with an extreme case of tunnel vision. There is no inspiration to be found here, and considering how easily most football themes achieve this goal, it's somewhat ironic.
It's somewhat difficult to not be insulted by the proceedings. No, I'm not a Christian, but yes, I do know the message being preached, and I do have a strong understanding of the principles and messages that the faith preaches. It's just that the film doesn't aspire to appeal to viewers outside of the church, and ends up preaching to the choir.
I didn't go into this expecting something original; we are talking about a high school football film, after all. Predictability and cliche is the name of the game here. This is a tale harkening back to the Biblical passage concerning the confrontation between David and Goliath, the classic overachieving underdog story. So, naturally, with a team being named the Giants, I knew there would be a match between the two, and from the start of the film, I kept waiting and waiting for a player named David. When David Childers (Bailey Cave), a runt (gee...) soccer player who joins the team due to the lack of a soccer team, I already knew the rest of the film, after letting out a guffaw of epic proportions.
The film, in addition to preaching to the wrong audience, preaches the wrong message, by clearly showing that belief in God, prayer, and trust in him will instantly solve all your problems. The fact that we see a life in peril with constant hardships in the beginning was an obvious sign that each and every issue would be resolved through the course of the film, and while that isn't offensive in its predictability, it doesn't create a fun viewing experience. Everyone wants a raise, a new vehicle, and success at their job, and some people work for it, rather than changing nothing in their work ethic. 'Facing the Giants' is very much like 'The Secret' (don't get me started on that one!), in that it tells viewers that they don't have to fix their wrongs, they aren't at fault for them, and belief in a system will solve all issues.
The fact that the actors in the film aren't professionals is obvious, and while the authenticity of the experience is unique, the result borders on disaster, creating unintentional comedic value. There is emphasis on words that don't need it, exaggerated arm gestures (golly gee wilikers!), and a discrepancy between tone of voice and facial expression. The writing and directing team act amateur as well, including an odd choice to cameo a real life winning Georgian coach, Mark Richt, with no explanation as to who he is, or why he's giving advice or inspiration to Taylor. Believe it or not, there are audiences outside of Georgia...
Another issue is the effect that Coach Taylor's reaffirmed faith has on those around him. The man isn't a prophet, nor a holy man, so why everyone around him changes as he does is a bit odd, and excessively convenient. Dumb players suddenly get 100% A+ papers? Prayer circles are held on the football field, creating massive conversion rates? Players change their attitudes, losing negativity and embracing family as the good book says? It's just another example of the way the film doesn't bother with believability, pandering to it's narrow audience, creating a film that cannot be taken seriously by those outside the fold. Honestly, after seeing how hard the agenda was being pushed, I found myself waiting for the preaching of faith to cross over to condemnation of subjects like evolution or abortion, which thankfully didn't happen.
Funnily enough, the film doesn't even preach a real Christian message. Early, before the team experiences their turnaround, they lose to a team that they chalked up as an easy victory, and literally freak out about it, berating the talents of those who may have actually put out effort to achieve victory. What did that sequence tell me, other than create a disdain for the characters for being poor sports, and poor losers? Shouldn't God teach the Eagles through adversity, rather than handing everything to them on a silver platter? I also couldn't help but notice how non-diverse the Eagles team was, while the Giants were multi-cultured. I won't touch what message that preached with a ten foot stick, really, but I found it to be a bit offensive.
Offensive is a word that describes this film nicely. While I can appreciate the effort put out to preach the message, and understand it full well, I cannot appreciate how heavy handed an approach was taken in doing such, creating a near unwatchable film. There are many movies out there with a strong Christian feel to them that tell a story that can be appreciated by any audience, believer or otherwise, that use a funny thing called analogy. I can easily "face the giants" and recommend any of them instead.
'Facing the Giants' stares 1080p in the face and laughs, as this AVC MPEG-4 transfer knows it will overcome any obstacle put in its path, so long as it believes in itself.
Only, not so much. Considering the shoestring budget, it's hard to fault 'Facing the Giants' for not looking like a five star film. Colors are strong, possibly too strong, as a few sequences sport a glowing feature that has nothing to do with divinity. Taylor's polo is a two headed beast, never being just right, as it glows one minute, and is fuzzy like a fleece the next. Skin tones are never overheated, and looked pretty natural throughout. Detail was solid, and I especially got a kick out of the detail visible on the layers of uniform through the mesh.
Blacks were inky and deep in a few night shots, but for the most part were too bright. There were a few moments when macroblocking artifacts were apparent, as well. The biggest flaw in this transfer is that there is often a general murky appearance, especially in grass, a key element in football films, leaving globs of undistinguished color.
Countless 'Scooby Doo' villains have declared they would have gotten away with it, "if it weren't for those meddling kids!" That's relevant here, as I can't help but proclaim that this audio would have been at least somewhat worth a damn, "if it weren't for the middling dynamics!"
There is no real dynamic range to speak of in the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track afforded to 'Facing the Giants.' Crowds seem to be loaded with mumblers, as there are no roars to be found, nor are there any higher pitched screams or whistles that normally accompany these types of games. It's all so... monotone.
Dialogue is distinguishable, but it's all stuck in the middle like it's the Steve Miller Band. Bass sometimes comes in to play with impacts on the football field, but they are absolutely anemic and pretty pitiful. Fidelity is an issue as well, as during games, crowd blurs, cheerleader chanting, and actual football noises all become an indistinguishable mess. The film is front loaded, with rears being utilized for the awful crowd sounds (that never put you in the crowd) and soundtrack bleed. In short, lossless or no, 'Facing the Giants' is a dwarf in the audio department.
Watching the turnaround the Eagles experienced in 'Facing the Giants' had me waiting for a literal angel to appear on their shoulders, ala 'Angels in the Outfield.' The film probably would have resorted to such, if it weren't for the non-existant budget. An average audio and video package, alongside a dry and pitiful extras package make this Blu-ray a treat for fans only, which is advisable anyways, as the film obviously aims for Christian audiences.